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Analysis: Questions remain about the fate of security in Iraq as US pulls out of major cities.
Additionally, if violence in a certain area of a city gets beyond the control of Iraqi forces, they can call upon American forces to fight alongside them to help regain control of the situation.
Among some U.S. soldiers, there are fears that insurgents may take advantage of the withdrawal to launch rocket and mortar attacks from cities with relative impunity. Senior American officers say that while they expect some growing pains as they adapt to the terms of the agreement, U.S. forces will be able to adjust in such a way that they can adequately defend themselves from these threats.
“It’s really difficult to predict what will happen,” said Capt. Ryan DeBonis, intelligence officer for the 1-5 Infantry battalion stationed in Diyala. “There are a lot of rumblings about what could happen when we pull out of the city,” but he adds that it’s nothing unexpected.
Preparations for the city withdrawal have not only put Iraqis in the lead of security operations in the city, but in many regards, they have changed the balance of power between U.S. and Iraqi forces. In the past, the U.S. provided a lot of intelligence and information for Iraqis. Without a foothold in urban areas, the U.S. will have to look increasingly to Iraqis for information about what’s happening in the cities.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials say pulling their combat assets out of the cities will allow them to focus more attention on rural areas that were previously neglected when attention was focused on cities.
“The major challenge that we will face is continuing to maintain situational awareness as we reduce presence inside the cities. We will achieve that through the partnership with our allies, the Iraqi forces, and I think we’re postured very well for that,” said U.S. Army Brigadier General James Nixon, deputy commanding general of operations in Multi-National Division - North.
As the United States draws down, top-level Department of Defense officials are closely scrutinizing events, with an eye on the final U.S. withdraw in 2011. Days before the June 30 deadline, Ashton Carter, the No. 3 official at the DoD and undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, visited an outpost in Diyala as it was in the process of closing.
“We’ll learn a lot when we withdraw from a small base like this. All kinds of issues arise that will arise when we withdraw from larger bases, for example to whom shall we turn over property? In what state shall we leave the facilities? What should we do with the equipment that is here on the base?” Carter said. “All of these questions are arising in a smaller way now and will arise in a very big way in a year and a half. So there’s significant learning being done here.”
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