Iraqi Lawmaker Opposes U.S. Troop Drawdown

Mohmoud Othman, a member of Iraq's Parliament from Kurdistan, says the United States should not consider drawing down the number of troops in Iraq until their job is done. According to Othman, Iraq's security forces cannot beat al-Qaida without U.S. help.

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DEBORAH AMOS, host:

Joining us now is Mahmoud Othman. He's a member of Iraq's parliament, part of the Kurdistan coalition, the second biggest block in the parliament. He's also an outspoken independent who joined the Iraqi government in 2003. Welcome to the program.

Mr. MAHMOUD OTHMAN (Member, Iraq's Parliament): Thank you.

AMOS: Kirkuk, as we've just heard, has had its share of violence, but are the bombings there today - is this something different?

Mr. OTHMAN: Well, it's huge in scale. It's quite a big one today, but that is understandable because many of al-Qaida members, when they were attacked in Diyala and Baqubah areas in the late operations, they were spilt over to the north. And yes, Kirkuk were those areas. So we expect that, really, some of their activities to be increased.

AMOS: So you're saying that the bombings in Kirkuk are almost connected to the surge. As the U.S. military pushes people out of Baghdad, they go further north and they take their targets in places where the U.S. doesn't have such a big presence?

Mr. OTHMAN: Yes. The operations made by U.S. is not quite done in a good way. They attack al-Qaida from one side, and they don't cut off the other side. So al-Qaida will have always some exit from - ways to run away. And then they make operations in other areas.

AMOS: Last week there was a White House assessment that gave the Iraqi government, actually, some pretty poor marks on a list of 18 benchmarks. Can you pull up those grades in the next month?

Mr. OTHMAN: I don't know, really. That depends on the Iraqi government. I hope the Iraqi political forces (unintelligible) will come together, work together, solve their problems together, so that they will not have any more negative comments from U.S. or from anybody. And I think U.S. itself should feel responsibility. It's not only the responsibility of the Iraqis. U.S. is totally responsible for what happens in Iraq. So they can't just talk about Iraqi government or Iraq is responsible without criticizing themselves.

AMOS: In the U.S., the question here is no longer if the U.S. draws down troops, but when. We're debating over the date. Are you planning for a time when the U.S. surge is over?

Mr. OTHMAN: The U.S. Congress will understand one point, that at this time they decrease the surge and they withdraw troops, that will be only in the benefit of al-Qaida. And that would endanger not only the countries around us, but the U.S. national security also. Though I think U.S. has the duty to deal with it.

AMOS: And you think that there's not a time in the near future that the Iraqi security forces can take care of al-Qaida in Iraq on its own?

Mr. OTHMAN: Definitely not. I think they can't handle the situation and deal with al-Qaida alone.

AMOS: How long do you think American troops should stay?

Mr. OTHMAN: As long as al-Qaida is here, because Qaida came here because of America, and they should deal with it.

AMOS: Ten years - do you have a time span in mind?

Mr. OTHMAN: I don't know. I don't know. Whatever it takes. They should at least deal with al-Qaida and then they could leave.

AMOS: That would be a benchmark for you?

Mr. OTHMAN: Yeah. That's right.

AMOS: Thank you very much.

Mr. OTHMAN: Thank you.

AMOS: Mohmoud Othman is a member of Iraq's parliament. He spoke to us from Baghdad.

Tomorrow, we'll talk with Kirk Johnson. He's an American trying to help Iraqis who say they're marked for death and need help from the U.S.

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