U.S. marines shifted from Iraq to Afghanistan
The redeployment of only 1,500 troops raises concerns that Taliban offensives in Afghanistan are over-extending US forces.
American and Iraqi officials announced on Wednesday that United States forces would hand over control of the Anbar Province, the scene of some of the war's most gruesome violence, to the Iraqi military as soon as next Monday. Most of the departing US soldiers are marines, many of whom will be sent to Afghanistan, where conflict has renewed between NATO forces and a resurgent Taliban.Skip to next paragraph
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The move out of Anbar and into Afghanistan appears to be as much a vote of confidence in Iraqi forces as it is an indication of US concerns about the war in Afghanistan.
"Anbar remains a dangerous place, but the ever growing ability of the Iraqi security forces continues to move us closer to seeing Iraqi control of the province," the general said.
He expressed the hope that the handover of the Anbar province to Iraqi control will allow the Pentagon to redeploy troops elsewhere.
"More US forces are needed in Afghanistan," he said. "However, in order to do more in Afghanistan, our marines have got to see relief elsewhere."...
"It's our view that if there is a stiffer fight going someplace else, in a much more expeditionary environment where the Marine air-ground task force really seems to have a true and enduring value, then that's where we need to be," he said about Afghanistan.
A transfer to Iraqi control was initially scheduled for June, but was postponed at the last minute amid worries about possible fighting between Anbar's rival Sunni factions, reports the Associated Press. For the last 18 months, many of those factions have come together to work with US forces and take on Al Qaeda in the form of Awakening Councils.
Ten of Iraq's 18 provinces have already been returned to Iraqi control. President Bush said in January 2007 that the goal was to have all 18 in Iraqi control by the end of 2007; currently there is no announced goal, although completing the process is a crucial step in phasing out the U.S. combat role in Iraq.
As recently as 2006, Anbar was the deadliest province in Iraq for American troops. Toward the end of that year, however, the Sunni Arabs who were leading the insurgency in Anbar decided to join hands with U.S. forces to jointly fight the extremist al-Qaida group, and violence levels plunged.
Now Anbar is one of the quietest parts of the country, with Iraqi security forces in the lead.