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No Letup in Iraq for Some Military Forces

Written By: Rowan Scarborough  |  Posted: Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

As U.S. military forces continue to stream out of Iraq, formally ending combat operations on Tuesday, one of the most effective elements of those forces missed the drawdown completely. There are as many special operations forces in the country now as there were when the exit began last year. President Obama, who as a U.S. senator opposed a 2007 troop surge and called for withdrawing all troops from Iraq, is set Tuesday to tell the nation that combat missions by Americans are officially over. There are now fewer than 50, 000 American troops in Iraq, down from a surge-high of 168, 000 in late 2007.

New challenges begin. An Iraqi security force of about 670, 000 troops will have to shoulder the brunt of attacking insurgents, while Iraqi politicians seek an elusive deal to form a new parliamentary government.
"In reality, the Iraqis have been doing the majority of the security work for some time now, " Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told PBS last week. "And so I feel very confident that they will be able to continue. There will be ups and downs. There will be bad days, but they will continue to provide adequate security."
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki underscored the "bad days" on Sunday, as he put the fledgling democracy on its highest terror-alert level. Stepped-up attacks are expected from al Qaeda and groups still loyal to the Iraqi Ba'ath Party regime of Saddam Hussein to show that government forces cannot contain violence.
"The lack of a government obviously makes people nervous, and it provides some uncertainty, " Gen. Odierno said. "But what I've been proud of is the Iraqis' security forces have remained neutral. They've done their job according to the constitution."

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