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Head of Iraqi army: U.S. troops will be able to withdraw by 2008

Head of Iraqi army: U.S. troops will be able to withdraw by 2008

The Iraqi army will have enough equipment and strength to allow most U.S. troops to withdraw by 2008, Iraq's army chief said Friday.
Gen. Babaker Shawkat Zebari said the Iraqi army would soon be able to provide security for its own nation and stand with the United States and other countries in the larger war on terror.
"The way things are going, I am confident the Iraqi army will be a very strong, very capable army in the near future," he said. "We will be with you Americans, shoulder to shoulder, in enforcing the rule of law, not just inside of Iraq but outside of Iraq. And terrorism has to be eradicated through the cooperation that exists between you and us."
Zebari visited Fort Riley to observe the training of the U.S. transition teams that are advising the Iraqi army. He also visited the commander of a brigade of soldiers that will be heading to Iraq soon. Those soldiers are part of the 21,500 additional troops sought by President George W. Bush as part of a security crackdown in Baghdad.
Through a translator, Zebari said the additional soldiers should be sufficient to restore order in Iraq, despite doubts in Congress and among the American public.
"We hope and we envision that by March '08, the vast majority of the American troops will be able to leave the country and be withdrawn, save for some American bases outside city limits that can be used and relied upon when need be," Zebari said, noting that there will also be an increase in the number of Iraqi troops. He did not specify how many U.S. bases might remain, or what cities they might be near.
His comments came the same day the Senate voted 81-0 to confirm Lt. Gen. David Petraeus to be the next U.S. commander in Iraq. Petraeus, the author of the Army's new manual on counterinsurgency, was expected to meet with Zebari while he was in the United States.
Democrats and some Republicans in Congress have their doubts about the additional troops. The Senate is expected to debate a Democratic resolution next week that states that the troop increase is not in America's best interest. A milder resolution drafted by Republican Sen. John Warner leaves open the possibility of Bush sending in a much smaller number of troops.
In December, a close aide to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told The Associated Press that the Iraqi leader believed his troops would be able to take over security for the country by June.
Wearing civilian clothes, including a heavy winter coat, Zebari on Friday watched U.S. soldiers train with others playing the role of Iraqi soldiers. He said the training was good, but he noted that successful training of Iraqi forces will require increased cultural awareness by Americans.
Maj. Gen. Carter Ham, commander for the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, said he suggested that Zebari send Iraqi soldiers to the northeast Kansas post for training, and Zebari agreed it was a good idea and would take it back to the Iraqi defense ministry.
Ham said Zebari told soldiers that they need to be patient and not get frustrated with the pace of progress.
"That's not normal in the Iraqi culture and sometimes we have to be a little patient and realize that change will occur more slowly than any of us would like, but that's partly a nature of the environment in which you're operating," Ham said.
Ham and Zebari, a former officer in the Kurdish forces, have a relationship dating to 2004 when Ham was made commander of the Multinational Brigade North in Mosul.
On Thursday, a deployment ceremony was held at Fort Riley for 3,400 soldiers of the 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. The soldiers were ordered to Iraq three days earlier by the Pentagon to satisfy Bush's change in strategy to increase soldiers on the ground.
There are 2,385 Fort Riley soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa, with an aviation brigade scheduled to deploy later this year.


Updated : 2021-04-13 19:38 GMT+08:00