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The withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq has begun and by the end of August there will be fewer than 50,000 left in the country. But although the so-called combat brigades may be gone, they are being replaced by equal numbers of contractors.

And just this week, on one day alone, 13 separate attacks across the country provided a chilling reminder of the perilous conditions confronting the local forces.

With violence on the increase and politicians locked in a stalemate, can the Iraqi army ensure the country's security or will US soldiers have to return?

Joining Inside Iraq to discuss this are: Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi foreign minister; Bradley Blakeman, a former senior White House aide; and Phyllis Bennis, the director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

This episode of Inside Iraq aired from Friday, August 27, 2010.

Source: Al Jazeera