Deadline Nears For Iraqi Security Handover
DAVID GREENE, Host:
Now to Iraq, where tomorrow marks a major change in America's war effort there. After six years of military occupation, U.S. combat soldiers will officially withdraw from Iraqi cities, in accordance with a treaty between the two countries. In theory, Iraqi forces are now capable of taking over security, and Americans will take a supporting and advisory role. Iraqis and Americans are greeting the day with a mix of relief and anxiety, as NPR's Quil Lawrence reports from Baghdad.
QUIL LAWRENCE: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has declared June 30th a national holiday to celebrate Iraq's sovereignty. Unfortunately, a sobering string of bombings has overshadowed the weeks leading up to the withdrawal.
(SOUNDBITE OF TRAFFIC)
LAWRENCE: An American patrol arrived a few hours after one recent attack in Sadr City, the vast Shiite slum in eastern Baghdad. A shallowly covered bomb exploded under a minibus carrying students to school, killing three of them. Nonetheless, the American drawdown is on schedule, says one of the soldiers at the scene.
GREENE: Yeah. My experience here in the past seven months working in this area of Baghdad, the forces that I've worked with, I think, are completely capable in what they're doing.
LAWRENCE: Unidentified Man #1: Actually, the details change every day. So it's hard to give anyone any concrete information.
LAWRENCE: In Baghdad, American officials still seem to be negotiating over key outposts inside the city. U.S. troops will be standing by to assist Iraqi forces, but supply runs and other patrols will happen at night or with an emphasis that the Iraqis are in the lead. That last part, anyhow, is very popular around Sadr City. An Iraqi policeman on guard near the bomb sight, Mohammed Hassan(ph), says the sooner the Americans go, the better.
MOHAMMED HASSAN: (Foreign language spoken)
LAWRENCE: Unidentified Man #2: (Singing in foreign language)
LAWRENCE: Once a killing field of sectarian violence, Adhamiyah is now quiet, and a prayer from a mosque echoes along the river bank.
WAMID NADHMI: A lot of people think that all (unintelligible) problems were due to the Americans persons and perhaps even introduced by the Americans.
LAWRENCE: Um Omar(ph) has come out to have ice cream with her children, and she says she's not worried about the American departure.
UM OMAR: (Through Translator) We're not worried. The Awakening forces are still there, and the situation is better now.
LAWRENCE: But the mall's manager, Abdul Cutter al-Dulami(ph) is less sanguine. He said that Iraq's security forces aren't ready and they're still riddled with sectarian divisions.
ABDUL CUTTER AL: (Through Translator) I think the American withdrawal will be a disaster, and we'll go back to square one. Everybody knows the situation is better because of the Awakening men, and now they will be marginalized.
LAWRENCE: Dulami says that the Shiite-dominated government hasn't yet found jobs for the mainly Sunni Awakening fighters. Some have even been thrown in jail. Without the U.S. troops, says Dulami, the actions will fall back to blood-letting. In the south Baghdad neighborhood of Dura, Sheikh Mustafa Kamal(ph) is one Awakening leader who says he fears arrest. He thinks the American pullout heralds a betrayal of the Sunni fighters.
MUSTAFA KAMAL: (Foreign language spoken)
LAWRENCE: Quil Lawrence, NPR News, Baghdad.
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