Iraq is willing to have the US withdraw its troops even before the end of 2011 — the departure date agreed to by former US president George W. Bush, the Iraqi prime minister’s spokesman said.
Spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh made the comment ahead of a meeting in Washington yesterday between US President Barack Obama and his senior commanders to discuss the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama promised during the campaign to bring home all US combat troops within 16 months of taking office. The new president said in his inaugural address on Tuesday that he would “begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people.”
Al-Dabbagh told reporters late on Tuesday that Iraqis had been worried about a quick US departure.
With the emphasis on a responsible withdrawal, al-Dabbagh said the Iraqi government was willing for the US to leave “even before the end of 2011.” The former Bush administration agreed in November to remove all US troops by the end of 2011.
Meanwhile, seven people were killed and at least 22 were wounded in a string of attacks across the country on Tuesday.
A car bomb targeting a US patrol in the afternoon killed three civilians and injured eight others in the central Baghdad district of Mansour. The US military said two of its soldiers were injured in the attack.
Earlier, an Iraqi police colonel was killed and a deputy minister escaped unharmed in two bomb attacks that left five people wounded, officials said.
Police Colonel Adbulmajid Mohammed was killed by an explosive device planted under his car in the town of al-Zubair, near the oil-rich southern city of Basra, police said.
His driver, also a police officer, was rushed to hospital in a critical condition after the bomb detonated as they were driving to work.
In a second attack, a deputy minister, Ammar Aziz Mohammmed Ali, survived an assassination attempt in the Iraqi capital, the government said.
“A roadside bomb blew up as the deputy higher education minister’s convoy was passing down al-Nidhal street in central Baghdad without hurting him,” a government statement said.
Two Iraqi civilians were killed and three were wounded in the attack, the US military said.
Also on Tuesday, police said a real estate agent was gunned down by unknown assailants who opened fire on his office in Mosul, about 370km north of Baghdad.
A suicide bomb attack, also in Mosul, resulted in a policeman being injured.
The incident in the Yarmuk neighborhood in the west of the city occurred when security forces opened fire after the man refused to stop as he approached a police checkpoint.
The police did not know whether the explosion was as a result of the gunfire or because the bomber had triggered the explosives.
In addition, six people including two policemen were injured in a grenade attack against a group of police officers in the city of Tal Afar, 60km northwest of Mosul, local police said.
Attacks have fallen sharply across Iraq in recent months, according to US commanders, though they admit insurgents are still able to strike and that this is likely to increase before provincial elections scheduled for next Saturday.