About Iraqis want Americans out _ but no consensus on when
|November 21st, 2005||#1|
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Iraqis want Americans out _ but no consensus on when info
BAGHDAD, Iraq - (AP) Like most Americans, Iraqis look forward to
the day when U.S. and other foreign troops go home. But as in the United
States, opinions in Iraq are mixed over what the timing and conditions for
the departure should be.
Interviews by Associated Press reporters across the country show the
debate in this country revolves around religious and ethnic lines, with the
Shiite-led government fearing a quick U.S. departure would trigger a
security crisis that one official said would "shake the security of the
Sunni Arabs, who make up the bulk of the insurgency, are generally
more anxious than Shiites and Kurds to see foreign troops out soon.
History teacher Qais Youssef Ahmed, 46, believes a year _ as some
have forecast _ is too long.
"What I prefer most is a short-term timetable because the people of
this country are capable of protecting it unlike the claims of some people,"
the Sunni Arab said in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit.
In the Sunni Arab stronghold of Ramadi, Abdul-Salam Mahmoud wants
the Americans to leave now because he believes they "are behind the troubles
of this country."
Mohammed Faiq, a Kurd in the northern city of Kirkuk, however, said
the country is on the verge of civil war and he feared an American pullout
would push it over the edge. "It is not the right time for a withdrawal," he
Public debate within the United States intensified last week after
Rep. John Murtha, a longtime Democratic hawk with ties to the U.S. military,
called for an immediate U.S. pullout _ a process he estimated would take six
Republicans in the House engineered a quick vote Friday on a
resolution rejecting an immediate withdrawal. On Tuesday, the Senate
defeated a Democratic push for President George W. Bush to lay out a
timetable for withdrawal.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld stuck to the Pentagon's
long-held assertion that field commanders will determine when to begin a
military drawdown and suggested that talk of an early withdrawal encourages
insurgents and discourages U.S. troops.
Citing the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections in Iraq, Rumsfeld said
Sunday that troop levels would remain near 160,000. Depending upon
conditions, troops then would return to pre-election levels of 138,000 as
planned, he said.
Few Iraqis want U.S. troops to remain in the country indefinitely.
Still, the Shiite-led government fears that public opinion in the United
States and its coalition partners might pressure the foreign troops to leave
before they have trained enough Iraqi forces to cope with the insurgents.
"An immediate and surprising withdrawal would create a crisis and is
unacceptable because it would create gaps," the Shiite official in charge of
national security, Abdul-Karim al-Inazi, told AP. "It would shake the
security of the entire region _ not only in Iraq."
He predicted that Iraqi forces would not be ready to take control of
the country before the end of next year.
The majority Shiites and Kurds, long oppressed by Saddam, took
advantage of the U.S.-led invasion that ousted him to maneuver into
positions of power. Sunni Arabs, who were dominant under Saddam but comprise
only 20 percent of the population, fear Shiite domination.
The idea of a gradual withdrawal appeals to Ayman Mahmoud, a
university student in the mostly Sunni Arab city of Mosul. He agreed a quick
pullout "might create security gaps" at a time when "the situation is not
A quick withdrawal holds less appeal in the Shiite heartland of
central and southern Iraq. Salim Abed Ali, 27, a grocer in the Shiite holy
city of Najaf, said he favors a phased withdrawal because the security
situation remains unstable.
Ahmed Aidan, 32, a teacher in Najaf, said troops should begin to
leave "only after acts of terrorism in the country are wiped out." In
Karbala, another Shiite holy city, Ali Qamar al-Silawi, said he wants a
timetable for a U.S. departure but agreed "an immediate pullout could create
problems and incite sectarian sedition."
In Baghdad, Sunni auto mechanic Hassanein Mawloud acknowledges he
has mixed feelings about the American presence.
"Half of me wants an immediate withdrawal because it means we get
rid of the occupation," he said. "The other half prefers the timetable
because this gives a chance to fill the security gap and so that chaos does