EXCLUSIVE: Cheney fears Iraq withdrawal will ‘waste’ U.S. sacrifices

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UPDATED EXCLUSIVE:

Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday said he is concerned about U.S. forces withdrawing from Iraqi cities within 24 hours.

Mr. Cheney told The Washington Times’ “America’s Morning News” radio show that he is a strong believer in Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, and that the general is doing what needs to be done.

“But what he says concerns me: That there is still a continuing problem. One might speculate that insurgents are waiting as soon as they get an opportunity to launch more attacks.”

More than 250 people have died in Iraq during the past week in attacks and bombings, which appear designed to shake the government’s confidence and reignite sectarian fighting.

Much of the violence is in northeastern Baghdad, where hostile acts have occurred about once every other day.

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“I hope the Iraqis can deal with it,” Mr. Cheney said. “At some point they have to stand on their own, but I would not want to see the U.S. waste all the tremendous sacrifice that has gotten us to this point.”

On Monday, several police officers reportedly were killed trying to defuse bombs, one under a car and another under a bridge. In anticipation of more violence, the Iraqi government has banned motorcycles in Baghdad and has increased ID checks and checkpoint security.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the U.S. Central Command, also has expressed concern about the recent bombings but said the average is about 10 to 15 a day, compared with 160 in June 2007.

The United States now has roughly 130,000 military troops in Iraq who will remain outside major cities to train Iraqi police and provide protection for remaining allied forces. The Pentagon wants to reduce the number to 50,000 by the end of next summer and have all U.S. forces out of the country by the end of 2011.

Iraqi Gen. Abud Kambar al-Malliki warned militias earlier this month that his forces are ready to fight “if you attack our citizens.”

Gen. Odierno said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Iraqi forces are ready.

“They’ve been working toward this for a long time,” he said, “and security remains good. We’ve seen constant improvement in the security force; we’ve seen constant improvement in governance. And I believe this is the time for us to move out of the cities and for them to take ultimate responsibility.”

Iraqis began celebrating Monday, ahead of the transition Tuesday, which the Iraqi government has declared National Sovereignty Day, a public holiday.

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