US may withdraw more Iraq troops

Violence persists but US defence chief likely to recommend more reductions as 'surge' ends.

    Mullen said the security situation in Iraq had improved beyond his expectation [EPA]

    US officials say the level of violence across the country is down to a four-year low based on reports of US and Iraqi military deaths, attacks on Iraqi civilians and sectarian violence.

    'Unquestionably better'

    Mullen said more progress had been made in Iraq than he expected, although he said it had not reached "a tipping point" and was not "irreversible".

    "But security is unquestionably and remarkably better," he said following a recent visit to Iraq.

    "Indeed, if these trends continue I expect to be able early this fall to recommend to the secretary [of defence] and the president further troop reductions."

    Violence continued in Iraq on Wednesday, however, with a car bombing at a popular market in the country's north, police said, killing at least 15 people, including seven children.

    Nearly 100 people were injured in the explosion near the town of Tal Afar, 420km northwest of Baghdad, police said.

    The attack came a day after bombings killed about 40 people and wounded scores in northern Iraq.

    Assessment period

    The end of the so-called surge of US troops also marks the start of a 45-day evaluation period to assess the security situation in Iraq and determine how many more soldiers could be pulled out.

    In recent months US military commanders have pointed to significant improvements in Iraq, including reduced violence and the growing capacity of Iraqi forces.

    US officials have been hoping that if security improves, they may be able to send more units to Afghanistan, where they say violence is increasing.

    Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, said on Wednesday that officials are looking for ways to send additional troops to Afghanistan this year.

    There are at least 140,000 US soldiers in Iraq, about 10 per cent or several thousand more than before the "surge" in late 2007.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Revival: The Muslim Response to the Crusades

    Revival: The Muslim Response to the Crusades

    This part of 'The Crusades: An Arab Perspective' explores the birth of the Muslim revival in the face of the Crusades.

    Going undercover as a sex worker

    Going undercover as a sex worker

    A photojournalist describes how she posed as a prostitute to follow the trade in human flesh.

    Africa is not poor, we are stealing its wealth

    Africa is not poor, we are stealing its wealth

    It's time to change the way we talk and think about Africa.