Odierno: Thousands of US Troops will Remain in Cities

Gen. Ray Odierno said Saturday in Baghdad that non-combat US troops would remain inside Iraqi cities after June 30, 2009, in a training and mentoring capacity. The security agreement concluded between Washington and the Iraqi government appears to call for all US troops to be deployed to bases outside the cities by the end of June.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the Sadrist bloc in parliament had opposed the security agreement on the grounds that it would legitimize the foreign military occupation of Iraq and that its provisions would not be honored by the US. Ahmad al-Masoudi, said that “The agreement is determined to bestow legitimacy on the American presence in Iraq.” He added, “Nothing will change when the agreement comes into effect” on Jan.1. He said, “The attacks on the Iraqi people will continue.”

Al-Masoudi told Aswat al-Iraq, “the US has large ambitions in Iraq,and it won’t be easy for it to back down from them.”

On Saturday, the office of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki characterized the comments of government spokesman Ali Dabbagh on the need for US troops in Iraq for up to a decade as merely Dabbagh’s personal opinion. Al-Maliki insists that Iraqi troops will be able to keep order in the country by the deadline for the withdrawal of US troops, now set at 2011.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports in Arabic that secular parties in Basra are expressing fears that the holy month of Muharram, which overlaps with the Jan. 31 provincial election date, will be exploited by Shiite religious parties for electoral gain.

The US military remains confident that the Sunni Arab Awakening Councils or Sons of Iraq will be successfully absorbed by the Iraqi government. Al-Maliki has pledged to induct 20,000 of the nearly 100,000 such fighters into the Iraqi security forces and police. The rest will be given desk jobs. The Iraqi government has begun paying the salaries of about 50,000 of them. Shiite Iraqis and the al-Maliki government are suspicious of many of these Sunni Arab guerrillas because many had been Baathists or part of the insurgency before 2006 and so some have a good deal of Shiite blood on their hands.