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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The pogrom begins

Max Becherer/Polaris, for The New York Times
A soldier of Iraq’s Ninth Mechanized Division guarding
he site of a car bombing in Baghdad. Iraq wants its troops
to assume more military duties.

Iraq Army Plans for a Wider Role in Securing Baghdad

Published: December 13, 2006

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12 — Iraq has presented the United States with a plan that calls for Iraqi troops to assume primary responsibility for security in Baghdad early next year. American troops would be shifted to the periphery of the capital.

Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq’s national security adviser, said in an interview that the plan was presented during the meeting in Amman, Jordan, on Nov. 30 between President Bush and Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

“I think it is extremely important they reduce their visibility and they reduce their presence,” Mr. Rubaie said of the American troops in Baghdad. “They should be in the suburbs within greater Baghdad.”

A spokesman for the National Security Council, Gordon Johndroe, said Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the senior American military commander in Iraq, was assessing the plan.

The plan may hold some attraction for the Bush administration, which is immersed in a review of Iraq strategy, but it also poses risks.

The plan is consistent with the administration’s desire for the Iraqis to take more responsibility for controlling the violence there, and it may reduce American casualties. But the Americans do not want to become complicit in sectarian violence. The Shiite-led government has been slow to act against militias that are forcing Sunnis from entire swaths of northern and eastern Baghdad, most recently from the neighborhoods of Huriya, Zayuna and Ghadier.

Because some of its forces, especially the police, are infiltrated by militias and have been implicated in attacks on Sunnis, American commanders — and Sunni politicians — fear that given a free hand, government forces might be used to cleanse the city of Sunnis.

Referring to the Iraqi demand for more control, one American military officer in Baghdad said the question was, “How do we accomplish that but still maintain some measure of control to ensure the forces aren’t used in a sectarian manner?”

The plan, if implemented, would be a major shift in American military policy. Commanders began this war fighting a Sunni Arab insurgency, and later broadened their efforts to include Shiite militias, after they became active in 2006.

For months commanders have emphasized that they were fighting both enemies with equal vigor, but this plan would shift focus for the Americans more to insurgents and Sunni extremists.

posted by Steve @ 12:49:00 AM

12:49:00 AM

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