US expects more violence in Iraq ahead of pullout


Washington : The US military believes there will be an upsurge in violence in Iraq ahead of the planned withdrawal of its forces from major Iraqi cities at the end of this month.

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Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters Wednesday that violence in Iraq had typically spiked ahead of key dates such as elections and predicted the same for the June 30 pullout.

“Our forces have been alerted to the possibility that we will likely see an uptick in violence leading up to the June 30 deadline for US combat forces to leave Iraqi cities and towns,” Morrell said.

Iraqis have witnessed two massive bomb attacks recently. At least 62 people were killed and more than 150 wounded in a bombing of a Baghdad market on Wednesday, and on Saturday 65 people died in a bombing in Kirkuk.

Under a deal arranged last year between then US president George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, US combat forces are required to exit Iraqi cities. Morrell said, however, some US forces will remain in cities to advise Iraqi security forces until they are self-sufficient.

“We are going to have some complement, albeit in much smaller numbers, of troops still in some Iraqi cities and towns in an advisory and assistance role,” Morrell said.

He said that terrorists will look to carry out high-profile attacks like the bombings this week, but said that overall security in Iraq was good.

“Despite the fact that you’ve seen sporadic high-profile attacks still taking place in Iraq, the overall security climate is a good one and we remain at all-time lows,” he said.

President Barack Obama has pledged to remove all combat forces from Iraq by the end of August 2010, about four months sooner than the deal worked out by Bush and al-Maliki. Thousands of US soldiers, however, will stay behind to provide logistical support and training to Iraqi forces.

There are about 130,000 US soldiers still stationed in Iraq. Obama wants to initiate pullouts and focus US efforts on Afghanistan, where the security environment has sharply deteriorated in the last two years.