The Iraqi army was supposed to pull out of the nation’s cities by the end of this year but is delaying the pullback over security concerns, the Iraqi military spokesman said on Oct. 8.
The delay is an acknowledgment that even after four years of declining violence, Iraq’s police force is not capable of maintaining security on its own. The other worry is that violence will increase when American troops complete their own withdrawal from the country at year’s end.
The government’s plan remains to eventually hand over security to the police and pull Iraqi troops back to bases outside the cities. But the spokesman for the Baghdad military operations command, Qassim al-Moussawi, said that the military is worried that the police will not be able to handle security in all areas of the country. “We started to hand over gradually in some areas. But other areas we can’t hand over to the police because still the Interior Ministry needs the support of the Iraqi army. It is not capable now nor by the end of 2011.”
The Iraqi army’s presence can be felt all over Iraq’s quasi-militarized cities, where soldiers in helmets and flak vests and carrying AK-47’s man checkpoints and drive around in Humvees. The army has received the bulk of the training and support from the U.S. military and is generally seen as more competent than the police.