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Archive for Saturday, February 28, 2009

U.S. troops say Iraqis ready for withdrawal timetable

A U.S. soldier shakes hands with an Iraqi child during a routine patrol Friday in central Baghdad, Iraq. U.S. President Barack Obama will announce Friday that he plans to withdraw the bulk of U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of August 2010, but wants to leave tens of thousands behind to advise Iraqi forces and protect U.S. interests, congressional officials said.

A U.S. soldier shakes hands with an Iraqi child during a routine patrol Friday in central Baghdad, Iraq. U.S. President Barack Obama will announce Friday that he plans to withdraw the bulk of U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of August 2010, but wants to leave tens of thousands behind to advise Iraqi forces and protect U.S. interests, congressional officials said.

February 28, 2009

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— At a sandstorm-battered base near Saddam Hussein’s hometown, U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Siwatu Spikes agrees it’s nearly about time for combat troops to leave Iraq.

He hopes the Iraqis are ready for it.

It was dinnertime at the sprawling Camp Speicher in north-central Iraq, and Spikes was in the chow hall, glued to one of several wide-screen TVs showing President Barack Obama outlining his plan for withdrawing combat troops by Aug. 31, 2010.

“I like his approach to it because I think we need to start turning over the country to the Iraqis,” said Spikes, a 33-year-old Hawaiian serving his third tour here in nearly six years. “I would like to think they are ready. I think we have done a good job training them. Now they need to apply it and sustain it.”

“I think they will be OK,” he said.

Many U.S. soldiers at the base appeared to echo Obama’s message: America’s time in Iraq is drawing to a close and Iraqi troops and leaders need to prepare themselves to take charge of their own destiny.

As many as 50,000 noncombat troops will remain in Iraq beyond the August 2010 deadline to advise, train and provide counterterrorism support with all American forces gone by the end of 2011.

Obama’s withdrawal schedule, outlined in front of Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C., suggests that the bulk of the current U.S. military presence in Iraq of about 138,000 troops will remain for the country’s nationwide elections expected later this year.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said he welcomes the withdrawal and urges that it be done “orderly and responsibly.” Obama called al-Maliki with the details of the plan before delivering his speech, White House officials said.

Sunni lawmaker Mustafa al-Hiti also applauded Obama’s plan, saying it met “the aspirations of many Iraqis who want to see the occupying troops out of their country.”

“We have enough confidence in our security forces and we think that there is no chance for a new round of violence in Iraq,” he said.

Other Iraqis, however, said they feared the absence of U.S. combat troops could spur violence anew if Iraqi security forces aren’t fully prepared.

“Before leaving Iraq, the U.S. Army should do their best to train and equip the Iraqis so that we can confront the dangers that are threatening the country,” said Raji Abbas, a Shiite from Najaf, where U.S. forces battled militias in 2004.

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