Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

No strategy and a beige suit

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 29 August 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 29 August 2014

Read more

ENCORE!

Alain Choquette: A Hilarious Magician in Paris

Read more

FOCUS

France welcomes Iraqi Christian refugees

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Emmanuel Macron: A new economy minister with a pro-business agenda

Read more

THE OBSERVERS

More of this year's best Observers stories

Read more

#TECH 24

Changing the world, one video game at a time

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Socialist Party summer conference kicks off in explosive atmosphere

Read more

  • Exclusive: Fabius warns of further sanctions against Russia

    Read more

  • Experimental Ebola drug ‘ZMapp’ heals all monkeys in study

    Read more

  • IMF stands behind Lagarde amid French corruption probe

    Read more

  • Ukraine to relaunch NATO membership bid

    Read more

  • Suriname leader’s son pleads guilty to courting Hezbollah

    Read more

  • British killer escapes from French psychiatric hospital

    Read more

  • Chelsea’s Torres set for AC Milan switch

    Read more

  • Police hunt for British boy with brain tumour taken to France

    Read more

  • France shines in IMF list of world’s promising economists

    Read more

  • Mapping Ukraine: Canada and Russia in ‘tweet for tat’ row

    Read more

  • First case of Ebola confirmed in Senegal

    Read more

  • Obama has 'no strategy yet' on potential Syria strikes

    Read more

  • Netflix to woo French with ‘House of Cards’ set in Marseille

    Read more

  • French businesses ‘hoping for a new Thatcher’

    Read more

  • Syrian refugees surpass 3 million, UN says

    Read more

  • West backs Ukrainian claims of Russian incursion

    Read more

  • Libyan PM resigns as Islamists set up rival administration

    Read more

  • UN says 43 peacekeepers captured in Golan Heights

    Read more

  • The deleted tweets of Manuel Valls

    Read more

  • Peru seizes record 6.5 tonnes of Europe-bound cocaine

    Read more

Violence continues in Iraq as US Defence Secretary Gates visits

Latest update : 2008-09-16

Two car bombs and a suicide-bomb attack left at least 32 people dead and 60 wounded in Iraq on Monday, while US Defence Secretary Robert Gates met US and Iraqi commanders in a surprise visit.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates made a surprise visit to Iraq on Monday, saying the new US commander will face a challenge as the US force shrinks and turns over more of the country to Iraqis.
  
But within minutes of his arrival, two car bombings in Baghdad killed at least 12 people and wounded 32 others, security officials said.

Later in the day a female suicide bomber blew herself up in a crowd of people during a feast in the Iraqi province of Diyala, killing at least 20 people and wounding around 30, according to a military officer.
  
His eighth trip to Iraq as defence secretary comes as Washington and Baghdad negotiate a controversial security pact to govern the presence of US-led troops when a UN mandate expires at the end of the year.
  
General David Petraeus, the head of US-led forces who is credited with curbing violence in Iraq, is to hand over command to his former deputy General Raymond Odierno on Tuesday.
  
"We are clearly on a mission in transition," Gates told reporters on the flight to Baghdad.
  
With levels of violence down to around four-year lows after an 18-month "surge" in US forces, President George W. Bush last week announced plans to send 8,000 troops home by January.
  
"There is no question we will still be engaged as we are, but the areas in which we are seriously engaged will I think continue to narrow," Gates said.
  
"And the challenge for General Odierno is how do we work with the Iraqis to preserve the gains that have already been achieved, and expand upon them even as the number of US forces are shrinking."
  
Responsibility for security of 11 of Iraq's 18 provinces has already been  turned over to Iraqis and Gates said a couple more would probably join them by the end of the year.
  
"So it's a transition from a focus on the surge brigades and the surge strategy to more Iraqi units in the lead, and us in more of an overwatch role," he said.
  
Iraq was spiralling into all-out civil war when Petraeus took over as commander in February 2007, almost four years after the invasion that toppled executed dictator Saddam Hussein.
  
Gates credited Petraeus's "brilliant strategy" and its implementation by US troops and field commanders for the success of the surge.
  
"I think he's played a historic role. There is just no two ways about it," he said.
  
Odierno, an early proponent of the surge, implemented it as the corps commander in Iraq from December 2006 to March 2008, which Gates said made him the right person to replace Petraeus.
  
Gates said Iraqis still must press ahead with political reconciliation, improve delivery of government services, and prevent a comeback by Al-Qaeda or "special groups" allegedly linked to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's militia.
  
But he said the US troops cuts announced by Bush, which will still leave more troops in Iraq than before the surge, were an acceptable risk.
  
"I think one of the major changes in the debate that we've had about Iraq is that now it is about pacing of the drawdowns. I think there should be deference to the commanders in the field on that score."
  
Lieutenant General Lloyd Austin, the number two US commander in Iraq, said levels of violence have declined by 80 percent over the past year, and that roadside explosions were down by about half.
  
"It's still fairly fragile. Things could happen to turn things around. But I think it continues to move in the right direction," he told reporters.
  
On Monday, however, two car bombings in Baghdad's Karrada district killed 12 people and wounded 32, a sign that insurgents are still capable to launch attacks.
  
Austin cited Iraq's upcoming provincial elections, tensions over the integration of the Sunni "Sons of Iraq" anti-Qaeda fighters, and the expected return of leaders of Iranian-back "special groups" as potential spoilers.
  
During his current visit, Gates is expected to meet top Iraqi leaders and discuss the proposed US-Iraq security pact, which was supposed to have been signed by July 31 but has been held up by several sticking points.
  
Iraqi negotiators told AFP that both sides have agreed to the withdrawal of US combat forces from Iraqi cities by June 2009 and the bulk of the 146,000 troops out of the country by 2011.

Date created : 2008-09-15

COMMENT(S)