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Iraqis Say More Than Troop Surge Needed for Stability


The patience of the American public and many politicians is waning as Iraqi violence continues and political reconciliation remains beyond reach. An additional 30,000 U.S. troops have arrived in Iraq, as calls intensify at home for U.S. forces to leave. In Iraq, VOA's Margaret Besheer asks Iraqi officials what they think of the U.S. surge strategy and the possibility of a U.S. troop withdrawal.

The United States now has about 160,000 military personnel in Iraq. But Sunni-Arab member of parliament Azhar al-Samerai says the solution is not in the troop levels.

"It is not the number, it is the kind," said Samerai. "If they plan good they will do good. But they did not."

She says U.S. military and political strategy in Iraq has been flawed from the start, and that is why no amount of soldiers can fix the situation.

Iraqi legislator Mahmoud Othman, a Kurd, thinks the root of the problem is political.

"I think the problem is political and any surge could not solve it," he said. "It could be solved only politically between Iraqi forces."

An interim report on Iraq issued last week from the White House said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government had made only limited progress in meeting goals for political reconciliation and security, fueling calls in the United States for troops to begin leaving.

In mid-September, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, David Petraeus, and American Ambassador Ryan Crocker are due to give Congress a progress report on conditions.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh worries that could be too soon for a fair assessment to be made.

"It is unfair to say the surge is not workable. I think we should give it enough time," he said. "Nobody could do a magic thing in September. But we do need a review. We do need to probably change the policy. Even the Iraqi government needs to change the policy. This policy is not workable."

But patience is dwindling in the United States. A recent poll by the U.S. newsmagazine Newsweek found that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that President Bush's troop-surge plan has been a failure.

Political frustration is also growing. Several leaders from President Bush's Republican party have questioned his Iraq policy. While Congress passed a measure last week demanding that most U.S. combat forces leave Iraq by April first of next year, with the withdrawal process to begin within 120 days.

Parliamentarian Safia Taleb al-Suhail says a timetable for U.S. withdrawal could be the motivation Iraqis need.

"I think we should really take our sovereignty back as Iraqis and we should take care of our security file. But the reality [is] that we are not at all ready to do it now," said Suhail. "But I am not against having a timetable, because the timetable will give, in my view, more push for both Americans, international community, and Iraqis to work seriously in having our security forces ready to do the job."

Government spokesman Dabbagh says a limited withdrawal could begin in 2008.

"We think that in 2008 the Iraqi security forces will be built to a certain extent that we could have a certain withdrawal of the American troops in good numbers," he said.

But he cautions that any withdrawal should not be done in haste or in response to political pressures before the U.S. presidential election next year. He says Americans and Iraqis have sacrificed too much for it to be lost in this way.