U.S. forces to stop joint operations in Iraq’s north
TIKRIT, Iraq — In one week US troops will cease joint operations with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, begun in early 2010 to dampen tensions between Kurds and Sunni Arabs in disputed northern zones, a US military official said on Saturday.
Colonel Michael Bowers said that from August 1, American forces will no longer be part of the trilateral operation.
“By August 1, they (operations) will be bilateral” between Iraqi Kurd and Arab forces, Bowers told AFP at the US Contingency Operation Base Speicher outside the city of Tikrit north of Baghdad.
He indicated that US troops would no longer be on the streets in the northern zones.
“Once they’re all bilateral supervised, the only place we are is in the command and control centres,” said Bowers, the strategist for Major General David Perkins, the Commanding General for the army’s US Division North.
“If something were to go wrong, obviously we could go help mediate,” he added.
When US forces began the tripartite operations with Kurdish and Sunni Arab forces in the northern areas early last year, it marked a new chapter in the US military’s role since the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
The US military, which currently has 47,000 troops in Iraq, began jointly manning checkpoints and carrying out security patrols in the provinces of Kirkuk, Nineveh and Diyala.
All US forces are scheduled to pull out of Iraq at the end of this year in accordance with a 2008 security pact.