About 3,500 US soldiers who were part of last summer’s troop “surge” are scheduled to leave Iraq in the coming weeks, the US military said.
The soldiers, part of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, will redeploy to Fort Benning, Georgia, said a statement released late on Monday.
The US sent some 30,000 additional troops into Iraq last summer to help stem growing violence. Those troops, along with the rise of Sunni fighters who allied with the US and began battling al-Qaeda and a truce called by a key Shiite militia, were credited with a sharp decrease in violence during the last 10 months.
The soldiers are part of the third of five “surge” brigades scheduled to redeploy. The other two are expected to return to the US by the end of July.
“The continued drawdown of surge brigades demonstrates continued progress in Iraq,” Brigadier General Dan Allyn said in the statement.
“After July, commanders will assess our security posture for about 45 days and determine future force requirements based on these conditions-based assessments,” he said.
Meanwhile, at least four civilians were killed overnight in the Baghdad Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City, hospital officials said yesterday. Some 21 people were injured at the same time.
Clashes in the sprawling slum of 2.5 million people have raged for five weeks, since the government began a crackdown on the militants in southern Iraq.
Hassan al-Rubaie, a Sadrist lawmaker, suspended his seat in parliament yesterday to protest the fighting in Sadr City. He said he held the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki responsible for the fighting in the slum.
He also blamed Iran for interfering with Iraq’s security and said Tehran was causing much of the violence by supplying money, weapons and training to Iraqi fighters.
Suspected al-Qaeda operatives also kidnapped a pro-US tribal chief and family members yesterday, police said.
Gunmen grabbed Ibrahim Abdullah al-Mujamai, his wife, their daughter-in-law and a grandchild in a village in Diyala Province, said a local police official who declined to be named.
The official said the chieftain had been arranging for a Sunni militia group to protect his village against al-Qaeda attacks and to support US forces deployed in the country.
In other developments, a US terrorism expert said on Monday that more suicide attacks by women could be expected in the coming months.
“Between January and April, there were 12 suicide attacks by women in Iraq. That marks an exponential increase,” Farhana Ali, a US international policy analyst of Pakistani origin, said after a symposium on terrorism at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting in Washington.
Twelve women carried out suicide attacks in the first few months of this year compared with 11 between 2003 and 2007, Ali said.
“So long as this conflict continues, you will see greater instability in Iraq and women will be greatly victimized — you will see more women in Iraq choose suicide terrorism in the next few months,” she said.