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Russia calls on U.S. to probe human rights violations in Iraq

Russia calls on U.S. to probe human rights violations in Iraq, says Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko

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October 28010 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Moscow has called on Washington to hold an investigation into mass human rights violations committed by U.S. servicemen during the military campaign in Iraq between 2004 and 2009, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said on Thursday.

Over 400,000 documents related to the U.S. military operation in Iraq were published on the whistleblower WikiLeaks website on Saturday. Some 1,500 other war logs will be published later.

“We call on the government of the United States to hold an investigation and hope that the results will be made public and the rights community and all interested international structures will be informed [of the results],” Nesterenko said in a statement on the website of the Foreign Ministry.

“Of course, information on the murders of civilians, torture and other degrading treatment of detainees which, according to the media, U.S. military commanders knew about, needs detailed investigation,” Nesterenko said.

“This move will demonstrate the adherence of the United States to high standards in the sphere of human rights, which they [the United States] always call on other countries to maintain,” Nesternko’s statement read.

The move will also help the United States “pass a serious test” which the country will have to undergo soon under the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review.

The Pentagon has repeatedly called on WikiLeaks to refrain from publishing war logs because, according to the U.S. administration, they threaten the safety of both servicemen and civilians in Iraq.

MOSCOW, October 28 (RIA Novosti)

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WikiLeaks data shows U.S. failed to probe Iraqi abuse cases

The Al-Jazeera television channel website, containing news coverage on secret US documents obtained by WikiLeaks, is seen on a computer screen at a cafe in Silver Spring, Maryland, on October 22, 2010. At least 109,000 people were killed, 63 percent of them civilians, in Iraq between the US-led invasion of March 2003 and the end of 2009, Al-Jazeera on Friday reported secret US documents obtained by WikiLeaks as saying. (Photo : JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

October 23, 2010 (KATAKAMI / Reuters) – WikiLeaks released nearly 400,000 classified U.S. files on the Iraq war on Friday, some detailing gruesome cases of prisoner abuse by Iraqi forces that the U.S. military knew about but did not seem to investigate.

The Pentagon decried the website’s publication of the secret reports — the largest security breach of its kind in U.S. military history, far surpassing the group’s dump of more than 70,000 Afghan war files in July.

U.S. officials said the leak endangered U.S. troops and threatened to put some 300 Iraqi collaborators at risk by exposing their identities.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the documents showed evidence of war crimes, but the Pentagon dismissed the files as “ground-level” field reports from a well-chronicled war with no real surprises.

“We deplore WikiLeaks for inducing individuals to break the law, leak classified documents and then cavalierly share that secret information with the world,” Geoff Morrell, Pentagon press secretary, said.

The Iraq war files touched on other themes, including well-known U.S. concerns about Iranian training and support for Iraqi militias. The documents, which spanned 2003 to 2009, also detailed 66,081 civilian deaths in the Iraqi conflict, WikiLeaks said.

Assange told Al Jazeera television the documents had provided enough material for 40 wrongful killing lawsuits.

“There are reports of civilians being indiscriminately killed at checkpoints … of Iraqi detainees being tortured by coalition forces, and of U.S. soldiers blowing up entire civilian buildings because of one suspected insurgent on the roof,” WikiLeaks said in a statement.

In one 2007 case, according to the documents, an Apache helicopter killed two Iraqis suspects who had made signs that they wanted to surrender. The document said, “They can not surrender to aircraft and are still valid targets.” It can be seen here: here

Although the Iraq conflict has faded from U.S. public debate in recent years, the document dump threatens to revive memories of some of the most trying times in the war, including the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal.

CRACKED RIBS AND EXECUTIONS

Those media organizations given advance access to the database — 10 weeks in one case — broadly concluded that the documents showed that U.S. forces had effectively turned a blind eye to torture and abuse of prisoners by Iraqi forces.

In one case, an Iraqi policeman shot a detainee in the leg. The suspect was whipped with a rod and hose across his back, cracking ribs, causing multiple lacerations and welts.

“The outcome: ‘No further investigation,'” the Guardian wrote.

The documents also cited cases of rape and murder, including a videotaped execution of a detainee by Iraqi soldiers. That document can be seen here: here

The New York Times said that “while some abuse cases were investigated by the Americans, most noted in the archive seemed to have been ignored.” It said soldiers had told their officers about the abuses and then asked Iraqis to investigate.

Amnesty International condemned the revelations in the documents and questioned whether U.S. authorities had broken international law by handing over detainees to Iraqi forces known to be committing abuses “on a truly shocking scale.”

“These documents apparently provide further evidence that the U.S. authorities have been aware of this systematic abuse for years,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

The document release could also renew debate about foreign and domestic players influencing Iraq, which has been in a political vacuum since an inconclusive election in March.

Military intelligence reports released by WikiLeaks detail U.S. concerns that Iranian agents had trained, armed and directed death squads in Iraq, the Guardian reported.

It cited an October 31, 2005, report stating that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps “directs Iranian-sponsored assassinations in Basra.”

The U.S. envoy in Iraq said in August he believed groups backed by Iran were responsible for a quarter of U.S. casualties in the Iraq war.

More than 4,400 U.S. soldiers have been killed since the start of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. All U.S. forces are set to withdraw from Iraq by the end of next year.

U.S. Formally Begins a New Era in Iraq

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates with American soldiers in Ramadi on Wednesday (9/1/ 2010). Photo : The New York Times

September01, 2010

BAGHDAD  (KATAKAMI / NYT) — The United States began a fragile new era in its turbulent history with Iraq on Wednesday as American political and military leaders marked the official end of combat operations but acknowledged that a difficult milestone, the creation of a new coalition Iraqi government, was not yet in reach.

In the marble rotunda of Al Faw Palace, one of the lavish former homes of Saddam Hussein that serves as the American military headquarters in Baghdad, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Gen. Ray Odierno sounded the same theme in a made-for-television ceremony to inaugurate Operation New Dawn, as the post-combat phase has been named. The United States, they said, was moving toward an exit after seven years of war but would not abandon the country.

“We stood together in difficult times, we fought together, we laughed together and sometimes died together,” said General Odierno, who formally ended four years as the top American commander in Iraq during the ceremony. He said the change in mission, which still leaves 50,000 American troops in the country, “in no way signals the end of our commitment to the people of Iraq.”

He ended his remarks with his military sign-off. “Lion 6 — Out,” he said.

The ceremony, attended by hundreds of American and Iraqi military commanders under United States and Iraqi flags hung between the rotunda’s black marble columns, at times resembled a high school reunion as officers who served multiple deployments in Iraq greeted one another before the formalities began.

The setting was rich in symbolism: Some seven years and five months ago, American forces entered the decrepit palace during the invasion of Baghdad to find an enormous crater from an American bomb, no plumbing or electricity, and goats wandering the rooms.

Despite the pageantry of the ceremony, held the day after President Obama declared combat operations at an end in a prime-time address from the Oval Office, military officials said they remained concerned about the bloodshed in Iraq, which has been sharply reduced from dark days before a 2007 increase in American forces but is still not under control.

Recent statistics gathered by the United States military show that in the first 17 days of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month that began in August, there was a substantial increase in casualties when compared with a similar period during Ramadan in 2009.

There has also been a major increase in rocket and mortar attacks in the fortified Green Zone and at the Baghdad airport, according to Gen. Ralph A. Baker, the deputy commander of American forces in central Iraq. General Baker, who said there had been about 60 such attacks in the last two months compared with “two or three” in the preceding months, blamed a “confluence” of factors, including frustration over electricity, the return of Iranian-trained militants and Iraq’s failure to produce a post-election government, which the insurgents have sought to exploit.

The goal of the insurgents, he said, is to “further erode confidence” in the Iraqi government and Iraqi forces “by trying to portray them as weak.”

Both Mr. Biden and General Odierno called on Iraq to form a government nearly six months after elections, although Mr. Biden sought to cast the stalemate in a positive light. “Politics has broken out in Iraq,” he said in his remarks from the podium. But he added that the Iraqis had courageously voted in large numbers, and therefore “they expect a government that reflects the results of the votes they cast.”

Mr. Gates, who has taken a markedly anti-triumphal tone during the clamor surrounding the end of combat, said earlier on Wednesday that history had still to judge whether America’s involvement in the seven-year-old war was worth the cost.

In subdued and reflective comments on Wednesday morning to reporters in Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar Province and the scene of some of the fiercest fighting of the war, Mr. Gates said that while American servicemen and women “have accomplished something really quite extraordinary here, how it all weighs in the balance over time I think remains to be seen.”

Asked directly if the war had been worth it, Mr. Gates replied, “It really requires a historian’s perspective in terms of what happens here in the long run.”

The war, he added, “will always be clouded by how it began” — that is, he said, the premise on which it was justified, Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, which did not exist. “This is one of the reasons that this war remains so controversial at home,” he said.

Nonetheless, Mr. Gates said he remained hopeful that Iraq could work out its problems in the long run, including its failure to form a coalition government. “These guys are politicking, they’re not shooting at each other,” he said. “And the efforts of Al Qaeda to reignite the sectarian violence we saw in 2006 and 2007 have not been successful. So I guess I would have to say I’m optimistic that these guys will get a coalition government and that they will continue to make progress.”

Nonetheless, when the Obama administration drew up the plan to reduce American forces to 50,000 troops by the end of August 2010, military planners assumed that Iraq would have a newly elected and largely representative government in place. And although Mr. Obama’s goals for Iraq are less far-reaching than those of President George W. Bush — who envisioned a democratic Iraq that would act like a catalytic agent for political change in the Middle East — the current administration’s goals are not immodest and include an Iraq government that, as President Obama said Wednesday night, is “just, representative and accountable to the Iraqi people.”

In his speech on Wednesday night, Mr. Obama noted that the last combat brigade had left Iraq on Aug. 19 without a shot being fired. What Mr. Obama did not say was that in the days since, one American soldier was killed near Basra when his unit was attacked by “indirect fire,” the military’s term for mortar or rocket fire, and at least four American troops in Iraq have been wounded.

Despite the official end of the combat mission, officials say, fighting will continue. American Special Operations Forces will continue to hunt for insurgents along with Iraqi units—a mission the Pentagon calls “partnered counterterrorism.”

The six United States “advise and assist” brigades that are staying behind to train Iraqi forces, escort American civilian advisers and protect United Nations officials have all of the weapons and military capabilities of a traditional combat unit. There is every indication that attacks by insurgents and Iranian-backed militias against American troops will continue, and the advisory brigades will have the right to defend themselves, with Iraqi troops if they are ready and willing, or by themselves if they must.

“Iraq can still be a dangerous place at certain places for very short periods,” Col. Malcolm B. Frost, the commander of an advisory brigade in Diyala, wrote in a note to the soldiers’ families. “The rules of engagement have not changed. We will move around Iraq fully protected in armored Strykers and other armored vehicles, wearing full body armor, and fully loaded with ammunition to deal with the enemy if/when they raise their head in anger against us.”

Colonel Frost’s brigade has the same combat and support soldiers as a traditional combat brigade but has been augmented with 51 advisers. Since arriving in Iraq in July for its advisory mission, two of the brigade’s soldiers have been killed. Thirteen were wounded but were able to quickly return to duty.  (*)

President Obama’s address to the nation on the End of Combat Operations in Iraq

US President Barack Obama reads his speech to photographers after delivering an address to the nation on the end of combat operations in Iraq from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on August 31, 2010. (Getty Images)

August 31, 2010

(KATAKAMI / WHITE HOUSE.GOV)  —  THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening.  Tonight, I’d like to talk to you about the end of our combat mission in Iraq, the ongoing security challenges we face, and the need to rebuild our nation here at home. 

I know this historic moment comes at a time of great uncertainty for many Americans.  We’ve now been through nearly a decade of war.  We’ve endured a long and painful recession.  And sometimes in the midst of these storms, the future that we’re trying to build for our nation — a future of lasting peace and long-term prosperity — may seem beyond our reach.

But this milestone should serve as a reminder to all Americans that the future is ours to shape if we move forward with confidence and commitment.  It should also serve as a message to the world that the United States of America intends to sustain and strengthen our leadership in this young century.

From this desk, seven and a half years ago, President Bush announced the beginning of military operations in Iraq.  Much has changed since that night.  A war to disarm a state became a fight against an insurgency.  Terrorism and sectarian warfare threatened to tear Iraq apart.  Thousands of Americans gave their lives; tens of thousands have been wounded.  Our relations abroad were strained.  Our unity at home was tested.

These are the rough waters encountered during the course of one of America’s longest wars.  Yet there has been one constant amidst these shifting tides.  At every turn, America’s men and women in uniform have served with courage and resolve.  As Commander-in-Chief, I am incredibly proud of their service.  And like all Americans, I’m awed by their sacrifice, and by the sacrifices of their families.

The Americans who have served in Iraq completed every mission they were given.  They defeated a regime that had terrorized its people.  Together with Iraqis and coalition partners who made huge sacrifices of their own, our troops fought block by block to help Iraq seize the chance for a better future.  They shifted tactics to protect the Iraqi people, trained Iraqi Security Forces, and took out terrorist leaders.  Because of our troops and civilians — and because of the resilience of the Iraqi people — Iraq has the opportunity to embrace a new destiny, even though many challenges remain.

So tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended.  Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.

This was my pledge to the American people as a candidate for this office.  Last February, I announced a plan that would bring our combat brigades out of Iraq, while redoubling our efforts to strengthen Iraq’s Security Forces and support its government and people.

That’s what we’ve done.  We’ve removed nearly 100,000 U.S. troops from Iraq.  We’ve closed or transferred to the Iraqis hundreds of bases.  And we have moved millions of pieces of equipment out of Iraq.

This completes a transition to Iraqi responsibility for their own security.  U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq’s cities last summer, and Iraqi forces have moved into the lead with considerable skill and commitment to their fellow citizens.  Even as Iraq continues to suffer terrorist attacks, security incidents have been near the lowest on record since the war began.  And Iraqi forces have taken the fight to al Qaeda, removing much of its leadership in Iraqi-led operations.

This year also saw Iraq hold credible elections that drew a strong turnout.  A caretaker administration is in place as Iraqis form a government based on the results of that election.  Tonight, I encourage Iraq’s leaders to move forward with a sense of urgency to form an inclusive government that is just, representative, and accountable to the Iraqi people.  And when that government is in place, there should be no doubt:  The Iraqi people will have a strong partner in the United States.  Our combat mission is ending, but our commitment to Iraq’s future is not.

Going forward, a transitional force of U.S. troops will remain in Iraq with a different mission:  advising and assisting Iraq’s Security Forces, supporting Iraqi troops in targeted counterterrorism missions, and protecting our civilians.  Consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year.  As our military draws down, our dedicated civilians — diplomats, aid workers, and advisors — are moving into the lead to support Iraq as it strengthens its government, resolves political disputes, resettles those displaced by war, and builds ties with the region and the world.  That’s a message that Vice President Biden is delivering to the Iraqi people through his visit there today.

This new approach reflects our long-term partnership with Iraq — one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect.  Of course, violence will not end with our combat mission.  Extremists will continue to set off bombs, attack Iraqi civilians and try to spark sectarian strife.  But ultimately, these terrorists will fail to achieve their goals.  Iraqis are a proud people.  They have rejected sectarian war, and they have no interest in endless destruction.  They understand that, in the end, only Iraqis can resolve their differences and police their streets.  Only Iraqis can build a democracy within their borders.  What America can do, and will do, is provide support for the Iraqi people as both a friend and a partner.

Ending this war is not only in Iraq’s interest — it’s in our own.  The United States has paid a huge price to put the future of Iraq in the hands of its people.  We have sent our young men and women to make enormous sacrifices in Iraq, and spent vast resources abroad at a time of tight budgets at home.  We’ve persevered because of a belief we share with the Iraqi people — a belief that out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization.  Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility.  Now, it’s time to turn the page.

As we do, I’m mindful that the Iraq war has been a contentious issue at home.  Here, too, it’s time to turn the page.  This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush.  It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset.  Yet no one can doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security.  As I’ve said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it.  And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hopes for Iraqis’ future.

The greatness of our democracy is grounded in our ability to move beyond our differences, and to learn from our experience as we confront the many challenges ahead.  And no challenge is more essential to our security than our fight against al Qaeda.

Americans across the political spectrum supported the use of force against those who attacked us on 9/11.  Now, as we approach our 10th year of combat in Afghanistan, there are those who are understandably asking tough questions about our mission there.  But we must never lose sight of what’s at stake.  As we speak, al Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  We will disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists.  And because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able to apply the resources necessary to go on offense.  In fact, over the last 19 months, nearly a dozen al Qaeda leaders — and hundreds of al Qaeda’s extremist allies — have been killed or captured around the world.

Within Afghanistan, I’ve ordered the deployment of additional troops who — under the command of General David Petraeus — are fighting to break the Taliban’s momentum. 
As with the surge in Iraq, these forces will be in place for a limited time to provide space for the Afghans to build their capacity and secure their own future.  But, as was the case in Iraq, we can’t do for Afghans what they must ultimately do for themselves.  That’s why we’re training Afghan Security Forces and supporting a political resolution to Afghanistan’s problems.  And next August, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility.  The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground, and our support for Afghanistan will endure.  But make no mistake:  This transition will begin — because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.

Indeed, one of the lessons of our effort in Iraq is that American influence around the world is not a function of military force alone.  We must use all elements of our power — including our diplomacy, our economic strength, and the power of America’s example — to secure our interests and stand by our allies.  And we must project a vision of the future that’s based not just on our fears, but also on our hopes — a vision that recognizes the real dangers that exist around the world,
but also the limitless possibilities of our time.

Today, old adversaries are at peace, and emerging democracies are potential partners.  New markets for our goods stretch from Asia to the Americas.  A new push for peace in the Middle East will begin here tomorrow.  Billions of young people want to move beyond the shackles of poverty and conflict.  As the leader of the free world, America will do more than just defeat on the battlefield those who offer hatred and destruction — we will also lead among those who are willing to work together to expand freedom and opportunity for all people.

Now, that effort must begin within our own borders.  Throughout our history, America has been willing to bear the burden of promoting liberty and human dignity overseas, understanding its links to our own liberty and security.  But we have also understood that our nation’s strength and influence abroad must be firmly anchored in our prosperity at home.  And the bedrock of that prosperity must be a growing middle class.

Unfortunately, over the last decade, we’ve not done what’s necessary to shore up the foundations of our own prosperity.  We spent a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas.  This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits.  For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform.  As a result, too many middle-class families find themselves working harder for less, while our nation’s long-term competitiveness is put at risk.

And so at this moment, as we wind down the war in Iraq, we must tackle those challenges at home with as much energy, and grit, and sense of common purpose as our men and women in uniform who have served abroad.  They have met every test that they faced.  Now, it’s our turn.  Now, it’s our responsibility to honor them by coming together, all of us, and working to secure the dream that so many generations have fought for — the dream that a better life awaits anyone who is willing to work for it and reach for it.

Our most urgent task is to restore our economy, and put the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs back to work.  To strengthen our middle class, we must give all our children the education they deserve, and all our workers the skills that they need to compete in a global economy.  We must jumpstart industries that create jobs, and end our dependence on foreign oil.  We must unleash the innovation that allows new products to roll off our assembly lines, and nurture the ideas that spring from our entrepreneurs.  This will be difficult.  But in the days to come, it must be our central mission as a people, and my central responsibility as President.

Part of that responsibility is making sure that we honor our commitments to those who have served our country with such valor.  As long as I am President, we will maintain the finest fighting force that the world has ever known, and we will do whatever it takes to serve our veterans as well as they have served us.  This is a sacred trust.  That’s why we’ve already made one of the largest increases in funding for veterans in decades.  We’re treating the signature wounds of today’s wars — post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury — while providing the health care and benefits that all of our veterans have earned.  And we’re funding a Post-9/11 GI Bill that helps our veterans and their families pursue the dream of a college education.  Just as the GI Bill helped those who fought World War II — including my grandfather — become the backbone of our middle class, so today’s servicemen and women must have the chance to apply their gifts to expand the American economy.  Because part of ending a war responsibly is standing by those who have fought it.

Two weeks ago, America’s final combat brigade in Iraq — the Army’s Fourth Stryker Brigade — journeyed home in the pre-dawn darkness.  Thousands of soldiers and hundreds of vehicles made the trip from Baghdad, the last of them passing into Kuwait in the early morning hours.  Over seven years before, American troops and coalition partners had fought their way across similar highways, but this time no shots were fired.  It was just a convoy of brave Americans, making their way home.

Of course, the soldiers left much behind.  Some were teenagers when the war began.  Many have served multiple tours of duty, far from families who bore a heroic burden of their own, enduring the absence of a husband’s embrace or a mother’s kiss.  Most painfully, since the war began, 55 members of the Fourth Stryker Brigade made the ultimate sacrifice — part of over 4,400 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq.  As one staff sergeant said, “I know that to my brothers in arms who fought and died, this day would probably mean a lot.”

Those Americans gave their lives for the values that have lived in the hearts of our people for over two centuries.  Along with nearly 1.5 million Americans who have served in Iraq, they fought in a faraway place for people they never knew.  They stared into the darkest of human creations — war — and helped the Iraqi people seek the light of peace.

In an age without surrender ceremonies, we must earn victory through the success of our partners and the strength of our own nation.  Every American who serves joins an unbroken line of heroes that stretches from Lexington to Gettysburg; from Iwo Jima to Inchon; from Khe Sanh to Kandahar — Americans who have fought to see that the lives of our children are better than our own.  Our troops are the steel in our ship of state.  And though our nation may be travelling through rough waters, they give us confidence that our course is true, and that beyond the pre-dawn darkness, better days lie ahead.

Thank you.  May God bless you.  And may God bless the United States of America, and all who serve her. 

(MS)

U.S. Combat Force Gone From Iraq Barring Disaster, Odierno Says

https://i2.wp.com/1.1.1.5/bmi/cache.daylife.com/imageserve/0eU5gSx71N5Nl/610x.jpg

Photo : Gen. Odierno

August 22, 2010

Aug. 22 (KATAKAMI /  Bloomberg) — U.S. troops would resume combat operations in Iraq only in the event of a catastrophic event or the “complete failure” of that nation’s security forces, the U.S. commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, said.

“It would have to be something that would change the strategic dynamic for us to move back to combat operations,” Odierno said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “I really believe we’re beyond that point.”

The U.S. had 144,000 troops in Iraq when President Barack Obama took office in January 2009. The last U.S. combat brigade pulled out of Iraq Aug. 19.

A force of 50,000 remains that will help train Iraqi security forces, protect American personnel and military facilities and assist with counterterrorism operations. Obama has said all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.

Odierno acknowledged that some presence could remain. “I think it depends on what kind of presence you’re talking about,” he said. He cited technical assistance that U.S. forces provide to Saudi Arabia and Egypt as examples. “Potentially we could be there beyond 2011.”

Retired Admiral William Fallon, a former head of U.S. Central Command, said on the CNN program that Iraq has agreed to buy American military equipment, which will necessitate some U.S. presence past 2011 for training and technical support.

“It’s really in our interest and the interest of the Iraqis that we continue a relationship with them,” said Fallon, who resigned after an Esquire magazine article depicted him as being at odds with former President George W. Bush over Iran policy. “Training, advising, helping is a mission we conduct all over the world.”

Violence Down

Odierno said the level of violence in Iraq is “significantly below” its peak in 2006 and 2007, when the country tipped toward civil war between majority Shiite and minority Sunni Muslims. There was an increase in attacks last month that Iraqi officials have attributed to the U.S. drawdown.

Iraqi leaders still haven’t succeeded in forming a national unity government. Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s party got the most votes in March, edging a coalition led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Still, neither won a majority of seats to form a governing coalition in Iraq’s 325-seat parliament.

Odierno said he’s not discouraged. The parties “are talking again,” he said. “We’re starting to see movement forward.”

Iran’s Role

Iran is obstructing the process by funding and training Shia extremist groups to attack U.S. forces, Odierno said. “I think they don’t want to see Iraq turn into a strong Democratic country” that could make “problems for Iran in the future,” he said.

As of Aug. 20, 4,419 Americans had been killed in Iraq and 31,911 wounded, according to the U.S. Defense Department. Another American soldier was killed today in a rocket attack in southern Iraq, marking the first American fatality since the last combat unit in Iraq pulled out of the country last week, the Associated Press reported.

Obama plans to make a speech about the changing U.S. mission in Iraq during the week of Aug. 30, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said yesterday.

‘Never a Perfect Time’

Former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad said he’s not sure the U.S. will be able to pull out all its troops by the end of next year.

“I believe that’s a tall order,” he said on CNN. It’s not clear “whether the Iraqis will be ready by then,” he said.

“There’s never a perfect time to leave a situation like this,” said General Richard Myers, the retired former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, who also appeared on CNN.

“At some point the Iraqis have to be responsible for their own situation,” he said.

Bombs kill 6 in Iraqi capital, including policemen

A worker sweeps debris as an Iraqi police officer ...
A worker sweeps debris as an Iraqi police officer stands guard at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, June 6, 2010.
June 6 ,2010

BAGHDAD – A car bomb exploded outside a Baghdad police station Sunday in the deadliest of a pair of attacks that killed six people in the Iraqi capital, security and hospital officials said.

A suicide attacker drove the bomb-rigged car up to a gate protecting the police post in western Baghdad’s al-Amil neighborhood during an early morning shift change when officers were gathered outside its blast walls.

The blast killed four police officers and one civilian, and wounded 15 people, according to emergency security and hospital officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Though violence has declined dramatically from just a few years ago, when the country teetered on the brink of civil war, attacks around the capital continue. The violence is a serious challenge for Iraq’s police and military forces as U.S. troops prepare to withdraw.

Adding to the sense of instability, Iraq’s political leaders are still wrangling over who will control the next government three months after a parliamentary election.

Iraqi and U.S. officials fear insurgents and other extremist groups are taking advantage of the political stalemate to stage attacks aimed at re-igniting sectarian violence. Most of the attacks have been blamed on a dwindling but determined core of al-Qaida in Iraq militants or others linked to the terror group.

Sunday’s attack at the police station sent shrapnel through the car window of government employee Ahmed Abbas as he was driving to work, cutting his arm.

“A big fire broke out and black smoke was rising from the area near the police station,” said Abbas, 38. “Security guards began shooting in the air to keep others from coming near. Some police were lying on the ground and others were wounded.”

Police quickly sealed off the blast site at a residential complex, which was littered with rubble. The police station itself was relatively unscathed. Two fire trucks hosed down a burning car.

Members of Iraq’s security forces and law enforcement officials have been a top target for insurgents, especially since U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq’s cities a year ago.

Later Sunday, a roadside bomb hit an Iraqi police patrol in Baghdad’s eastern Zayouna neighborhood, wounding four policemen and a bystander, according to two police officials who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

Elsewhere in eastern Baghdad, a remote-controlled bomb exploded near a courthouse, missing a judge who was the target but wounding one of his bodyguards and several bystanders, police said.

Another bomb, stuck to the underside of a car in Baghdad’s central Allawi al-Hillah area, ripped the vehicle apart during rush-hour traffic, killing the driver and wounding three passengers, according to police and hospital officials who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

GEN Odierno speaks about the future of Iraq at the Institute for the Study of War

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(KATAKAMI / FACEBOOK) Recently while in Washington DC, I was able to participate in a discussion with Dr. Kim Kagan, of the Institute for the Study of War, and members of the media concerning the future of Iraq.

We have a relationship with the Government of Iraq that gives us an important opportunity to develop a democratic Iraq that enjoys a long term partnership with the United States. I believe it’s critical that we take advantage of this opportunity because it’s hard to know if we will ever have this kind of chance again. We all want success and victory in Iraq, but as I stated during this talk we may not know until three to five to 10 years from now if we’ve been successful. But I do believe we are moving in the right direction.

We have been through so much with our Iraqi partners and I think many things have gone better than expected. The implementation of the Security Agreement in early 2009 has been a success. We’ve turned over the responsibility for the entire security file to the Government of Iraq, we’ve reduced our forces in Iraq and the Iraqis have been able to sustain, and in fact continue to improve, security over 2009. Additionally, we’ve seen incredible development of the Iraqi government. It’s nowhere near as mature a government that we see in some other Western cultures for democracies, but they certainly have made tremendous strides.

I believe these kinds of open discussions with leading thinkers and media here in the US are necessary, and an important way to educate our fellow citizens about our progress and future in Iraq.

GEN Odierno greets GEN Jack Keane (ret.) member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for the Study of War prior to speaking about the future of Iraq. (Photo by SSgt Mark Deanda)
GEN Odierno sits with Dr. Kim Kagan, CEO of the Institute for the Study of War during a discussion about the future of Iraq. (Photo by SSgt Mark Deanda)
GEN Odierno answers a question from the media during a discussion concerning the future of Iraq at an event hosted by the Institute for the Study of War. (Photo by SSgt Mark Deanda)
Members of the media listen as GEN Odierno discusses the future of Iraq with Dr. Kim Kagan of the Institute for the Study of War. (Photo by SSgt Mark Deanda)
GEN Odierno answers a question from the media during a discussion concerning the future of Iraq at an event hosted by the Institute for the Study of War. (Photo by SSgt Mark Deanda)
(MS)