Iraq: Troops Can Withdraw From Some Cities
Tuesday July 12, 2005 3:01 PM
By ROBERT H. REID
Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iraq's prime minister said
Tuesday that U.S. and other foreign troops could begin
handing over security to Iraqis in selected cities,
although he opposes setting a timetable for the
complete withdrawal of multinational forces.
Underscoring security concerns, a car bomb killed at
least three people and wounded 15 Tuesday in the
ethnically tense northern oil city of Kirkuk, police
said. An American soldier died of injuries suffered in
a land mine explosion south of the capital, the U.S.
Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari spoke to reporters
alongside Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick,
who arrived Tuesday from Jordan, where he and Iraqi
officials signed four economic agreements.
Al-Jaafari said he opposed such a timetable ``when we
are not ready'' to assume responsibility for defending
the country against the insurgents. However,
al-Jaafari added that security in many of Iraq's 18
provinces has improved so that Iraqi forces could
assume the burden of maintaining order in cities
``We can begin with the process of withdrawing
multinational forces from these cities to outside the
city as a first step that encourages setting a
timetable for the withdrawal process,'' al-Jaafari
said. ``We don't want to be surprised by a decision to
withdraw at a time when we are not ready.''
He didn't specify which cities where he felt the
redeployment could occur.
Zoellick's visit to Iraq had not been announced
publicly. After meeting with al-Jaafari and others,
Zoellick traveled to Hillah, about 60 miles south of
Baghdad, where he met with Polish and other
The Defense Department wants to pull some of its
135,000 troops out of Iraq in 2006, partly because the
mission is stretching the Army and Marine Corps
perilously thin as casualties mount. U.S. commanders
believe the presence of a large U.S. force is
generating tacit support for anti-American violence.
However, wide areas of northern and southern Iraq are
largely unaffected by the insurgency, which is
concentrated in Baghdad and the Sunni Arab heartland
of central Iraq.
Last weekend, The Mail on Sunday newspaper of London
published a leaked British government memorandum
showing that Britain is considering scaling back its
troop presence from 8,500 to 3,000 by the middle of
next year, saving an estimated $1 billion annually.
The memo, marked ``Secret - U.K. Eyes Only,'' and
signed by Britain's Defense Secretary John Reid, spoke
of a ``strong U.S. military desire for significant
``Emerging U.S. plans assume that 14 out of 18
provinces could be handed over to Iraqi control by
early 2006,'' which would see the multinational force
cut from 176,000 to 66,000.
On Monday, British officials confirmed the
authenticity of the document. Prime Minister Tony
Blair's official spokesman, who speaks on customary
condition of anonymity, said the memo merely confirms
the government's long-standing plan to train Iraqi
forces and gradually hand over security
In Kirkuk, a car bomb went off in an industrial
district as pedestrians were passing by, police Capt.
Farhad Talabani said. Police rushing to the scene of
the blast came under fire and three were wounded, one
critically, police Col. Ahmed Hamawandi said.
Police said the bombing did not appear to have been a
suicide attack, and no group claimed responsibility.
Kirkuk, 180 miles north of Baghdad, is located in one
of the richest oil fields in the Middle East and is
home to Arab, Kurdish and Turkomen communities, each
vying for power there.
Iraqi troops, meanwhile, detonated about three tons of
explosives found near oil fields in southern Iraq, a
military spokesman said. The explosives, including
1,282 mines, 628 mortar rounds and 825 artillery
shells, were discovered by Oil Protection Services who
called the army to remove them, Capt. Firas al-Tamimi
Al-Tamimi said the explosives were believed to have
been planted by Saddam Hussein's forces after the 1990
invasion of Kuwait - possibly to prevent the oil
fields from falling to U.S.-led troops when they drove
Iraqi troops from the emirate the following year..
The U.S. military said an American soldier has died of
injuries he sustained when his patrol struck a land
mine south of Baghdad.
The explosion occurred at around 9 a.m. Monday, the
military said Tuesday. Three other soldiers were
wounded in the attack near Mahmoudiya, which is about
20 miles south of Baghdad.
At least 1,756 members of the U.S. military have died
since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003,
according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,352
died as a result of hostile action. The figures
include five military civilians.
In Baghdad, gunmen assassinated a police colonel, Amir
Mirza, in a market in the city's Wahda district,
police said. The gunmen escaped.
Elsewhere, the country's largest Sunni political party
condemned the deaths in police custody of up to 10
Sunni Arabs detained last weekend. The Iraqi Islamic
Party said the men suffocated after being locked in a
van for 14 hours in 105-degree temperatures.
In a statement Tuesday, the Iraqi Islamic Party
denounced ``this savage crime'' and the ``barbaric way
citizens are being treated'' in Iraq.
Associated Press correspondents Frank Griffiths in
Hillah and Bassem Mroue in Baghdad contributed to this