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Iraq attacks raise questions about US withdrawal

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Another US commander in Iraq, Maj. Gen. Richard Nash, said this week that while attacks were down in the southern military sector of Iraq – now about 1.3 per day – there's been an upswing in attacks at US bases since American forces withdrew from the cities.

President Obama's new focus on Afghanistan – which will probably soon include a request from the field commander for additional US troops – has led some analysts to renew the case for staying in Iraq. They say that if Mr. Obama takes his eyes off the ball in Iraq, he may squander hard-won success there.

Even though violence in Iraq is "not spiralling out of control," it's important for the White House to keep paying attention, adds Fred Kagan, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

Mr. Kagan, credited as one of the architects of the 2007 "surge" strategy in Iraq, believes Iraq is now "preoccupied" more with political development than with security. But to maintain the security, Obama will have to remain vigilant, he says. "The question is, are we going to see this through?"

Obama's Afghanistan shift

Iraq is still teetering between two poles, said Ken Pollack, director at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings at a meeting with reporters Wednesday. At one end, democratization and pluralism and at the other, "old politics and pressures" that could drag it back into civil war.

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