Monday, June 29, 2009
The top American military commander in the Middle East is expressing confidence in Iraqi security forces, a day before the deadline for U.S. combat troops to withdraw from Iraqi cities.
Gen. David Petreaus' comments come despite a string of deadly bombings that have killed more than 250 people in a little more than a week. After a meeting with Egypt's president in Cairo, Petreaus acknowledged "there will be challenges," but says the Iraqis are ready to take over.
Meanwhile, celebrations of the U.S. departure have begun in Baghdad. Speakers mounted at police stations and military checkpoints have been playing patriotic songs. Military vehicles patrolling the capital have been decorated with flowers and Iraqi flags.
Some Americans will remain in the cities as trainers and advisers, but the bulk of the more than 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq have assembled in large bases outside urban centers. Under a security agreement between Washington and Baghdad, all American forces must leave the country by the end of 2011.