US forces pull out of Iraqi cities

Car bomb kills up to 40 in Kirkuk as Iraqi forces assume control in urban areas.

    Tuesday's explosion at a Kirkuk market underlines the security challenges facing Iraq [AFP]

    He told the Associated Press news agency that Iraq is "now celebrating the restoration of sovereignty".

    Al-Maliki described the US withdrawal as a "turning point" for the country and declared Tuesday a public holiday.

    'Sense of anxiety'

    In depth

     Video: Security handover leaves Iraqis cautious
     Video: Iraq hails 'Sovereignty Day'
     Video: US troops suffer Iraq trauma
     Video: Security handover ignites concern 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
     Focus: Pinning hopes on the Iraqi army
     Focus: The scramble for Iraq's 'sweet oil'
     Riz Khan: US troops pull back in Iraq
     Inside Iraq

    But Al Jazeera's Hoda-Abdel Hamid, reporting from Iraq, said: "[Despite] the impression of a withdrawal and a return to sovereignty... there is a sense of anxiety in the air.

    "Security measures are tighter and some streets sealed off.

    "People here are extremely nervous ... they're trying to figure out if more roadside bombs are planted."

    But Mahmoud Almusafir, a former Iraqi diplomat, told Al Jazeera: "For me and all the Iraqis, this is the day the Americans confessed that they can't go more in Iraq, and they can't control the cities, they can't control Iraq.

    "This is ... [US] face-saving, telling the people of the world that we are not killing Iraqis anymore and letting the government have a proxy war on their behalf."

    Asked whether he feared Iraqis will start killing other Iraqis after the withdrawal, he replied: "This is American propaganda. They try to sell it to the world and unfortunately the world bought it.

    "There are no Iraqis killing Iraqis. Iraqis - Sunnis, Shias ... have lived together for hundreds of years.

    'Too insulted'

    "The problem is American propaganda started at the beginning to control the city and this divided everyone ... unfortunately the politicians implemented this policy - the politicians who came with the Americans in 2003."

    US troops levels in Iraq

     2003: 175,000 - original invasion force
     2004: 108,000 - US starts withdrawal
     2007: 168,000 - increase in violence
     2009: 131,000 - troop levels trimmed

     Early 2010: 128,000
     August 2010: 35,000 - 50,000
     2011: Complete withdrawal

    Fireworks continued to light up the sky over Baghdad into the early hours on Tuesday, after thousands of Iraqis, an unprecedented number for a public post-war event, attended a party in a park where singers performed patriotic songs.

    "All of us are happy - Shias, Sunnis and Kurds on this day ... the Americans harmed and insulted us too much," Waleed al-Bahadili, an Iraqi attending the celebrations, told the AFP news agency.

    Many Iraqis ignored an appeal by Tariq al-Hashemi, the Iraqi vice-president, to stay away from crowded places during the US pullback, after more than 250 people were killed in bombings over the past 10 days.

    Scattered bases

    Status of Forces Agreement (Sofa)

     US forces will partner with the Iraqi army to continue to keep roads clear of road side bombs
     Logistical convoys belonging to the US military will move only at night
     US advisory teams will be embedded with units of the Iraqi army and police
     US forces will continue to carry out combat operations in rural areas only with the approval of Iraqi officials
     No detention or search operations will be carried out without a legal warrant from an Iraqi judge

    Motorcycles have been banned indefinitely in Baghdad after they were used last week in three separate attacks, killing more than 100 people.

    Despite the formal pullback, some US troops will remain in cities to train and advise Iraqi forces. US forces are also ready to return if asked.

    The US military is to continue combat operations in rural areas and near the border with the permission of the Iraqi government.

    The US has not said how many troops will be in the cities in advisory roles, but the vast majority of the more than 130,000 US troops forces remaining in the country will be in large bases scattered outside cities.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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