Baghdad car bombs claim lives

Twin attacks occur as US soldiers prepare to pull out of all Iraqi cities and major towns.

    There are concerns about Iraqi security forces' ability to check the violence after US troops withdraw

    More than 250 people have been killed in a series of attacks in recent days, raising fears that Iraqi security forces will struggle to cope after the June 30 withdrawal.

    The Iraqi government says the US military has handed over control of 95 per cent of their installations in urban areas to Iraqi forces.

    Pullout deadline

    US forces are to leave all cities and major towns of Iraq by the end of June, including Mosul and Kirkuk, where levels of violence remain persistently high.

    A "small number" of US troops would be left in some Iraqi cities after the June 30 deadline at so-called Joint Security Stations to train and advise local security forces, a military spokesman said.

    In depth

     Video: Female force keeps Diyala secure in Iraq
    Video: Iraq security concerns grow over US pullout
     Video: Residents afraid to return to Baghdad district
     Video: Fear of violence grips Mosul
     Video: Iraq blast mars US pullout
     Interview: Most Iraqi provinces 'safe'
     Your views: US troop pullouts
     Pinning hopes on the Iraqi army
     Inside Iraq

    The US military will also continue to provide intelligence and air support to Iraqi security forces.

    In interviews to US TV stations on Sunday, the US commander in Iraq said the time is right for American forces to pull out of Iraqi cities and expressed confidence in the ability of Iraq's security forces to take more control.

    US troops already were out of the country's cities - before Tuesday's deadline - after slowly withdrawing over the last eight months and "overall stability in Iraq remains good", General Ray Odierno said.

    He said US forces will "still be conducting significant operations outside of the cities, in the belts of the major cities, and I still believe this will enable us to maintain the current security and stability situation here in Iraq".

    Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, said on Saturday that the transfer of security responsibilities showed that Iraqi institutions were ready to ensure the safety of their own people and would be celebrated as "victory day".

    He made the remarks as the Iraqi parliament met to debate the reasons for the apparently deteriorating security situation.

    However, Tariq al-Hashimi, the Sunni vice-president, expressed the concerns of many Iraqis when he urged Iraqis, in a statement posted on his website, "to be more cautious and avoid, whenever possible, crowded areas unless there is something important".

    'Right to be scared'

    Striking a similar cautionary note, Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni member of the Iraqi parliament and the leader of the Iraqi National Dialogue Front, told Al Jazeera: "Iraqis have a right to be scared, they know very well that the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq will leave a political vacuum in the country.

    "This is an irresponsible withdrawal from Iraq, because there is not much change in the political process or the American policy in Iraq adopted by the previous US administration.

    "Al-Maliki is not aware of the consequences after the American troops leave the country, he wants to deliver what the Iraqis want - an end to the occupation."

    Al-Mutlaq's views were echoed by Ayad Allawi, a former Iraqi prime minister, who said that the surge in violence was likely to continue unless "drastic measures" were taken.

    "Always we anticipated that once there was a drawdown in forces ... the Iraqi institutions - military and police - are not capable of shouldering the responsibility," he told Al Jazeera on Saturday.

    "Nor will the political landscape in the country encourage stability."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


    Lost childhoods: Nigeria's fear of 'witchcraft' ruins young lives

    Lost childhoods: Nigeria's fear of 'witchcraft' ruins young lives

    Many Pentecostal churches in the Niger Delta offer to deliver people from witchcraft and possession - albeit for a fee.

    The priceless racism of the Duke of Edinburgh

    The priceless racism of the Duke of Edinburgh

    Prince Philip has done the world an extraordinary service by exposing the racist hypocrisy of "Western civilisation".

    China will determine the future of Venezuela

    China will determine the future of Venezuela

    There are a number of reasons why Beijing continues to back Maduro's government despite suffering financial losses.