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Iraq attacks raise questions about US withdrawal

Violence reduced over the summer, but attacks surged in Baghdad and Ninewa Province and some US bases since American troops withdrew from the cities.

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Even though violence in Iraq is "not spiralling out of control," it's important for the White House to keep paying attention, adds Fred Kagan, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

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Mr. Kagan, credited as one of the architects of the 2007 "surge" strategy in Iraq, believes Iraq is now "preoccupied" more with political development than with security. But to maintain the security, Obama will have to remain vigilant, he says. "The question is, are we going to see this through?"

Obama's Afghanistan shift

Iraq is still teetering between two poles, said Ken Pollack, director at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings at a meeting with reporters Wednesday. At one end, democratization and pluralism and at the other, "old politics and pressures" that could drag it back into civil war.

The US must play a greater role in Iraqi political development, he says, adding that he thinks Iraq would be amenable to the help.

But others warn that staying longer would only prolong Iraqi dependency on the US and delay self-sufficiency. Besides, troops and resources are needed in Afghanistan.

"I don't think you should forget about [Iraq]" says Lawrence Korb, senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress in Washington. "But if you said to me, 'I have a limited number of troops and should I put them in Iraq or Afghanistan?' then I would say Afghanistan."

Mr. Korb adds that he isn't sure Iraq does want the US to continue to play a role there.

Meanwhile, the American public is losing patience with the engagements overseas. Only 24 percent of Americans think Iraq is "very important," according to a recent poll by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Media, while an ABC News/Washington Post poll from July shows that 34 percent think the Iraq war was worth fighting.

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