WASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 2011 — Iraqi security forces are handling the country’s response to a spate of terrorist bombing attacks, a Defense Department spokesman said here today.
“The Iraqis have not asked us for assistance, and we are still on our timeline to draw down by the end of the year,” Marine Corps Col. David Lapan said.
An al-Qaida affiliate is suspected to be behind attacks in Tikrit and Karbala. Officials in Baghdad said attacks in the holy city of Karbala targeted Shiia Muslims making a pilgrimage to one of their most sacred shrines.
The attacks are the most spectacular in a spike of violence since the new Iraqi government formed. The attack in Tikrit targeted police recruits, with a suicide bomber killing 60 people and wounding hundreds of others. Bombs went off at security checkpoints at the northern and southern gates of Karbala, killing 45 people and wounding 110 others. The bombings follow weeks of relative calm in the country.
“We don’t see this as a trend,” Lapan said. “It is more in line with what we’ve talked about: There will be times when there are these spectacular attacks that are perpetrated to try to derail the process.”
About 47,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq. Almost all are involved with training, advising and assisting Iraqi security forces. The plan is to keep the troops in their advise-and-assist role so Iraqi forces can get the benefit of this training, officials in Baghdad said. The end of 2011 will see an acceleration of U.S. troops leaving the country, officials added.
A few American troops will be assigned to the Office of Security Cooperation in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, officials in Baghdad said. No formal talks are under way to keep U.S. units in Iraq after the Dec. 31 deadline for all U.S. combat forces to be out of Iraq.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)