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Security Fears Loom as U.S. Troops Drawback in Iraq

The exit of U.S. forces from cities in Iraq was celebrated on Tuesday, even as many in the nation worried about the ability of Iraqi police and military forces to provide adequate security. Jane Arraf of The Christian Science Monitor discusses the situation with Judy Woodruff.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    For more on today's handover, we go to Jane Arraf, a correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor in Baghdad. She has covered Iraq since the early 1990s for several news organizations, including Reuters, CNN and NBC.

    Jane Arraf, thank you for talking with us. We have just shown the celebrations in the streets. How do you sense the mood is there?

  • JANE ARRAF, Christian Science Monitor:

    Well, it's interesting. The expression they use here, Judy, is it's like a wedding, which means a huge celebration, singing, dancing and flowers everywhere, particularly on the police vehicles and the army trucks.

    But just below that, if you scratch the surface a little bit, there is quite a lot of apprehension. You know, the car bombings aren't gone. The suicide bombings aren't gone. And in a lot of neighborhoods, although they are clearly celebrating the fact that they're taking back their country, they're also really worried about what the next few weeks and next few months will hold.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    What is known, Jane, about how exactly this new arrangement is going to work?

  • JANE ARRAF:

    That is such a great question. I've been trying to pin that down. And, in essence, what it means is that the U.S. is no longer free to go and do missions on its own. Combat troops — and the key is combat troops — have to be out of the cities.

    Now, that doesn't mean that all troops are going to be out of the cities, even though that's what Iraqis are expecting in a lot of places, but what it does mean is, when there are troops out there, are convoys out there, they will be accompanied by Iraqi forces.

    To actually make that work takes a level of coordination that probably doesn't quite exist yet. Military precision doesn't really mean the same thing to Iraqi security forces that it does to the U.S. Army, for instance.

    So what a lot of people are expecting is a lot of waiting around, waiting for that phone to ring, as U.S. officials wait for approval and wait for coordination for those escorts to be able to do missions, non-combat missions.

    And a lot of it is going to come down to relationships, whether Iraqi commanders have good relationships with their American counterparts and vice versa. So the bottom line, really, is it's not entirely clear to anybody how exactly this is going to work starting tomorrow.

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