by David Bedein
PM Rejects US Proposals To Extend Deadline
The Middle East Newsline has confirmed the Iraqi government has reaffirmed the June 30 deadline that calls for American troops to withdraw from Iraqi cities - less than two months from now.
The government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has decided to reject U.S. proposals to extend the redeployment deadline until late 2009. The U.S. military had sought to remain in Baghdad and Mosul to battle the resurgence of al-Qaida.
“The Iraqi government is committed to the dates for the agreed-upon withdrawal of American forces from all the cities and towns by June 30 of this year,” Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.
Under the Status of Forces agreement, which went in effect this year, the U.S. military was required to withdraw from Iraqi cities by the end of June. The complete pullout is supposed take place by 2012.
U.S. commanders had argued that Iraqi security forces remain incapable of battling al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein loyalists in Baghdad and Mosul. They said the dismantling of the 100,000-member Sunni-dominated al-Sahwa auxiliary police force, formed by the United States to battle al-Qaida, has also harmed the counterinsurgency campaign.
The U.S. military announcement last month marked the highest rate of casualties in Iraq since September 2008. In late April, the military also reported negotiations with the Iraqi government to extend the withdrawal deadline.
“It’s a political decision, not a military one,” the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Raymond Odierno, said.
During a meeting with Iraqi commanders in Mosul, Gen. Odierno said a U.S. military departure from the city would require a closer partnership with the Iraq Army and security forces. The U.S. general said this would ensure the continuation of training and reconstruction projects.
Still, the al-Maliki government concluded that Iraqi security forces, with continued U.S. guidance, were capable of staging counterinsurgency operations. Officials said any extension of the redeployment deadline would spark unrest within the majority Shiite community.
“These dates cannot be extended, and they are in keeping with the process of transitioning and handing over responsibility to Iraqi security forces, according to what was agreed upon,” Mr. al-Dabbagh said.
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