By next week, all of the US combat troops currently in Iraq are due to have left ahead of a Sept. 1 deadline in the US-Iraq security agreement. The focus of US and Iraqi officials though is on keeping some of the remaining 50,000 US forces here after a deadline of the end of next year.
On Wednesday, a senior Iraqi military leader, Gen. Babaker Zubari, stated publicly what most Iraqi officials say more privately – that he believed there would need to be a continuing US presence here after 2011. Under current plans to expand Iraq’s armed forces, destroyed and dismantled by the US in the war, Iraq will not have the capability to secure its land borders and air space for almost another decade.
Along a main road in Baghdad's largely Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiya, presumed AQI fighters blazed a trail of destruction at the end of July – laying roadside bombs, fatally shooting police and soldiers at three checkpoints, and then setting fire to bodies before leaving an Al Qaeda-linked flag, according to witnesses and officials.
“There were about 30 gunmen – they attacked all four checkpoints at the same time, says policeman Dhia Kuthayar of the mid-afternoon attack. “I called in for reinforcements – our orders were not to move from our post. If I had been able to kill just one of them, I would have – even if I had to die doing it.”
The Adhamiya attack was followed by another at a checkpoint in the West Baghdad neighborhood of Mansour, formerly the diplomatic district, which killed five police after gunmen with silencers opened fire. Witnesses said they left a black flag of the self-declared Islamic State of Iraq, an AQI-affiliated group, at the scene.