US troops to hand over Anbar province’s security to Iraqis

September 1st, 2008 - 11:12 am ICT by IANS  

Baghdad, Sep 1 (DPA) Iraqi forces have finalised their preparations to take over responsibility for security in the western Anbar province, a spokesman for the Iraqi forces has said. “US forces will transfer security tasks to Iraqi forces at the beginning of next month (Sep 1) during official ceremonies and military parades,” Mohamed al-Askary told the Voice of Iraq (VOI) news agency late Sunday.

Anbar’s security transfer was initially scheduled to take place at the end of June, but disputes among local politicians delayed the process.

Some 25,000 US soldiers are currently deployed in Anbar province. Following the handover, US forces will be stationed in their bases outside the cities and will only be visible when requested, VOI said quoting an official at the national security adviser’s office.

The Sunni province of Anbar, located some 110 km west of Baghdad, has undergone a remarkable transition since 2006, when it was the focus of Sunni resistance to the US occupation. The US troop “surge” strategy, along with the decision of local Sunni leaders to ally themselves with the US forces, is credited with bringing relative calm to the region.

Iraqi forces are now in control of 10 out of Iraq’s 18 provinces. Anbar will be the eleventh province to take responsibility for its own security.

The commander of US forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus said in June that at least two provinces, other than Anbar, would be handed over to Iraqis before the end of this year.

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