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US troops take on more peacekeeping role in Iraq: analysts

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) June 12, 2008
The role of US troops in Iraq has shifted in recent months to one of "peacekeeping rather than war fighting" thanks to a series of negotiated ceasefire deals with insurgents, analysts said Thursday.

Stephen Biddle, senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the agreements were largely responsible for a drop in violence and had subsequently sparked a change in the US military's role in the country.

"The US mission has started to shift from counterinsurgency as we traditionally understand it into increasingly something that looks like peacekeeping rather than war fighting," he told reporters.

"We've ended up acting like the police force to maintain and police the terms of the ceasefire deals that the individual combatants have observed."

This was "likely to continue until and unless we get a serious problem with ceasefires collapsing," he said, adding that maintaining the deals was the "key challenge" facing the US military in the coming months.

Vali Nasr, adjunct senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told the same conference call that even as the security situation improved, the United States still had a key role to play.

"It's very important to note that the United States is sort of in the middle of this and the gains in Iraq have by no means made it easier to find a way for the US to extricate itself from Iraq," he said.

"My impression was that the success means that the US mission in Iraq has to evolve much more now from security, which we still have to be very vigilant with, to much more state-building."

President George W. Bush last year ordered a "surge" of five extra brigades to Iraq to combat escalating violence, which he claims has been a success.

These brigades are now being withdrawn, with the final due home in July, bringing troop numbers down from a current level of about 151,000 to 147,000.

A 45-day assessment period will follow the withdrawal, but the top US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, has said he expects to recommend further cuts before he moves on to head US Central Command in September, because of improved security.

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The Iranian Headache In Iraq Part One
Moscow (UPI) Jun 12, 2008
Accompanied by members of his Cabinet, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made his second visit to Tehran since the beginning of the year. Iran has offered Iraq strategic cooperation, including in the military sphere.

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