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U.S. poised to let Iraqis take lead
“The explosions now are all because of the neighboring countries and the parties that are involved with these countries,” said a 25-year-old Iraqi police sergeant who asked not to be named because, he said, he had been ordered not to say anything negative about the pullback. “The security situation will be bad, for sure.”
The number of Iraqi police in the capital has reportedly been boosted as the transition date nears, and Iraqi soldiers have been told not to take leave.
Significant hostile acts of all kinds totaled 3,467 nationwide last year, compared with 6,210 in 2007, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.
From Jan. 1 to the end of May, the number of improvised explosive devices that detonated or were found and neutralized in the greater Baghdad area was 454, a 75 percent drop from the same period last year, according to the U.S. military.
Doug Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy in the first term of the George W. Bush presidency, said Iraqi security forces and political capability have improved remarkably in the past year and a half.
“People are wise to warn that the accomplishments are fragile and reversible, but they are also undeniable,” said Mr. Feith, who had been a major proponent of the war.
Daniel Serwer, vice president for peace and stability for the U.S. Institute of Peace, said the Iraqis “have expressed confidence they can meet the challenges.”
“What is not clear is how successful they will be in meeting these challenges,” he added.
Mr. Serwer, who was executive director of the 2006 Iraq Study Group, which recommended a transition of the U.S. role to training, said he found during a trip to Baghdad last week that “there is no question they want us to meet the deadline, and they feel they can handle it.”
“There is an uptick in violence, there have been a number of serious incidents,” Mr. Serwer said. “The jury is still out on how well they can meet the requirement. I am reserving judgment for now.”
Judith Yaphe, a senior fellow at the National Defense University and an Iraq specialist, said the U.S. has “defeated many elements of the insurgencies.”
“We have broken much of al Qaeda,” Ms. Yaphe said. “But that was not the entire scope of what was going on in Iraq. There are still groups that want to work against us and disrupt governance, and they want to restart sectarian war.”
About 40 U.S. facilities have been transferred to Iraqi Security Forces in greater Baghdad this year.
“The mission hasn’t changed since we got here in January,” Lt. Col. Scott Jackson, commander of the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment (“1-5”), told his officers on Forward Operating Base (FOB) Shield in northeastern Baghdad recently.
“We are to partner with the Iraqis in security,” Col. Jackson said. “The only thing that is going to change is how we do it. We are now on their schedule. We ask them what they want to do and how can we help.”
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