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Most US troops out of Iraq by mid-December: general
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Nov 3, 2011

Top US lawmaker warns on hasty Iraq, Afghan pullout
Washington (AFP) Nov 3, 2011 - Republican US House Speaker John Boehner warned Thursday against hasty US troop drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan he said might be fueled by political expediency trumping security concerns.

Asked about a Wall Street Journal report that the United States may be eyeing a quicker-than-expected shift to a supporting role in Afghanistan, Boehner urged President Barack Obama to heed the advice of top military commanders.

"The goal in Afghanistan is to ensure that the terrorists don't have safe havens from which to plan, frame, and execute attacks on Americans here and abroad," he told a roundtable of reporters.

Boehner noted Obama's move to withdraw all US combat forces from Iraq by year's end, and warned that "there are serious gaps in Iraq's ability to protect itself, especially from their neighbors to the east," Iran.

"I just think in both cases, we have invested so much of our treasure and so much of the lives of young Americans that we should be very careful about losing the gains that have been made because of someone wanting to be more expedient," he said.

The "vast majority" of remaining US troops in Iraq will be out by mid-December as the American military's withdrawal picks up pace, a US general said Thursday.

Less than 34,000 troops remain in Iraq after reaching a peak of 170,000 in 2007 during a buildup ordered by former president George W. Bush, said Major General Thomas Spoehr, deputy commanding general for the US force in Iraq.

"As I look at the plan, I think it's clear to me that by the time we get to about mid-December or so, the vast majority of the US forces in Iraq -- we plan to have them withdrawn from Iraq by that time," he said via video link from Baghdad.

Under a 2008 security pact, the United States has to pull out all troops by the end of the year. Negotiations for a possibly smaller post-2011 force of a few thousand faltered over the question of legal immunity for American soldiers.

The withdrawal of troops and equipment represented an "immense" logistical effort, with about 1,650 trucks traveling up and down the country on any given day, Spoehr told reporters.

The general compared the undertaking to the famed "Red Ball Express" during World War II, when allied forces rushed supplies by truck to combat troops advancing toward Germany after the D-Day landing.

"I will tell you that right now, as we sit here, we are deep in the midst of this. So there are trucks and planes and people moving very quickly at a high rate of speed throughout Iraq to execute our commitments," Spoehr said.

But he added that the withdrawal would be carried out in a "measured way" to guard against potential insurgent attacks as the troops depart.

US officers have therefore decided not to divulge details of the planned withdrawal as information released previously about base closures appeared to have prompted attacks, according to Spoehr.

US forces, which once operated out of 505 bases during the height of the "surge" of additional troops in 2007, now have only 12 bases left in the country.

Most troops will be leaving by air with truck convoys carrying equipment to neighboring Kuwait.

President Barack Obama's administration is weighing a possible expansion of the US military's presence in Kuwait and the Gulf region after the troop withdrawal from Iraq, in a move officials say would be designed to counter the threat posed by Tehran.

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Attacks on anti-Qaeda Iraq militia kill five
Baquba, Iraq (AFP) Nov 3, 2011 - A suicide bomber and a car bomb targeted anti-Qaeda militiamen near Baquba, north of Baghdad, on Thursday, killing five people and wounding 26, an army officer and a doctor said.

The suicide bomber detonated his explosives about 9:15 am (0615 GMT), as Sahwa (Awakening) militiamen gathered near an Iraqi army base to pick up their salaries, a colonel in the Baquba operations command said.

A car bomb exploded about 10 minutes later in a nearby parking area as emergency workers arrived at the scene, said the colonel, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The attacks killed four Sahwa members and a soldier, and wounded 26 other people -- four ambulance drivers, six civil defence employees and 16 Sahwa members, the officer said.

Dr Firas al-Dulaimi of Baquba General Hospital gave the same toll, saying the hospital had received the bodies of three people killed and admitted 28 wounded from the attacks. Two of the wounded later died.

The Sahwa are made up of of Sunni tribesmen who joined forces with the US military against Al-Qaeda from late 2006, helping turn the tide of the insurgency.

Violence has declined nationwide since its peak in 2006 and 2007, but attacks remain common. A total of 258 people were killed in October, according to official figures.


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Eight killed in Iraq motorbike bombings: doctor
Basra, Iraq (AFP) Nov 2, 2011
Three motorbikes rigged with explosives blew up in the southern Iraqi port city of Basra late on Wednesday, killing at least eight people and wounding at least 22, a doctor and police said. A doctor at Sadr Hospital in Basra said that at least eight people were killed and 22 wounded in the blasts, while a police lieutenant colonel gave the same toll. Basra province police chief General F ... read more

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