Iraqi forces not seeking U.S. help in urban combat

Other News Materials 12 July 2009 16:04 (UTC +04:00)
Iraqi forces not seeking U.S. help in urban combat

Iraqi forces have not called for U.S. help in urban combat since June 30, when U.S. combat troops withdrew from city and town centres under a bilateral security agreement, a senior U.S. official said. "Here's what has not happened: there have been no requests for combat forces to return back into the city, any city," said Lieutenant-General Charles Jacoby Jr, who took over in April as head of day to day operations in Iraq, Reuters reported.

"There are established protocols for how (Iraqi forces) might ask for that, but we have not been asked for combat forces," Jacoby told a small group of reporters at the weekend.

Iraqi troops have asked, however, for assistance in pre- and post-combat operations, such as intelligence assistance from U.S. forces with much more sophisticated technology, a vast fleet of planes and helicopters, and logistics resources.

The June 30 withdrawal of combat troops from urban bases was hailed by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as a milestone in restoring sovereignty more than six years after the U.S.-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.

It was also a milestone in the blueprint for a full U.S. withdrawal by 2012, shifting greater responsibility to Iraqi police and military forces rebuilt from the ground up since 2003 and still lacking experience, equipment, and certain skills.

Under the pact, U.S. forces must get Iraqi authorisation for military operations, or Iraqi forces can ask for help.

Jacoby acknowledged there had been an increase in violence in the last few days, but said it was one that was expected from an insurgency that is holding on in ethnically, religiously mixed areas like Nineveh, Kirkuk and Diyala provinces.

Two suicide bombings killed 34 people on Thursday in Tal Afar, a town in Nineveh, home to minority Turkmen.

In Mosul, Nineveh's main city, there is a steady drumbeat of attacks, many of them targeting police and soldiers.

Kirkuk, an oil-rich area disputed between Arabs, minority Kurds and Turkmen, has also been the site of attacks.

The level of violence is far lower than at the height of sectarian killing in 2006-07, but many Iraqis are worried there is more to come, especially since political reconciliation has a way to go and the country is preparing for national elections in January.

"The (insurgent) networks were waiting for this time period and I think they're going to punch themselves out," Jacoby said. He said Iraqi forces were adjusting to the new environment.

In the post-June 30 environment, Jacoby said U.S. forces are seeking to strangle insurgencies in places like Mosul by ringing the city and trying to stem the flow of weapons or fighters.