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As U.S. troops leave Iraq, challenges will remain, says expert

08-20-2010 09:37 BJT

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- Though the United States' drawdown in troops from Iraq will likely happen on time, Iraqis, along with remaining U.S. forces, still have work to do in order to ensure stability and security in the country, Patricia DeGennaro, a Middle East policy expert, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

DeGennaro is an adjunct assistant professor at New York University and a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute. During the interview, she discussed her hopes for an Iraqi population she called "very well educated and determined to try to govern the state themselves."

U.S. President Barack Obama confirmed in a speech on Aug. 2 that the United States will change its mission from one of combat forces to one of transitional forces at the end of August. The United States will reduce its number of troops on the ground to 50, 000 by then, and completely withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011.

This commitment raised some questions about whether or not Iraq, where U.S. troops have been active since 2003, is ready to take charge of its own security situation.

Aggravating these doubts are recent bouts of violence attributable to heightened insurgent activity during the holy month of Ramadan, as well as the country's inability to form a coalition government after parliamentary elections in March 2010 left no clear winner. One devastating attack on an Iraqi army recruitment center on Tuesday left 45 people dead and 121 others wounded.

DeGennaro said she sees the current lack of a national government as "hurting the country as a whole in the long run," but does not believe that recent events will change the U.S. established timetable for withdrawal. She stressed that the United States is maintaining some troops in Iraq until the end of 2011 in order to continue to train Iraqis to deal with insurgent attacks and other violent incidents.

"They will lead and train and help stability and foster and improve and maintain stability and make sure that the military and the police force are ready to be able to deal with some of these really devastating random acts of violence that are happening," she said.

DeGennaro also maintained that factionalism, a perennial problem in Iraq, will likely continue after the American troop drawdown.

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