Iraqis begin to take over cities

June 29, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
On Monday night, there was celebration in the streets of Iraq. It's Tuesday there and U.S. troops have officially pulled out of Iraq's major cities.

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For months, U.S. forces have been packing up, turning over 100 bases to Iraq, since January. Monday afternoon, one last base was handed over. Iraqi state television is running a countdown with one day to go.

In Bagdad, U.S. forces seem to have vanished, but hundreds of American troops will remain as advisers and trainers. All U.S. soldiers must be out by 2011.

"The Iraqi forces have gained incredible numbers of capabilities over the years so we think they're ready," said Christopher Hill, U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

"If it doesn't, then it's wasteful with millions of dollars, American lives, Iraqi lives, and civilians. It needs to succeed. It just has to," said Benjamin Corbett with the U.S. Army.

Many Iraqis are thrilled the Americans are pulling back, even though bombings over the past two weeks have killed 250 people. Haitham A Jasim lives in San Jose, but he was a translator for U.S. troops. He says there are elements in Iraq that are determined to destabilize the country when the U.S. leaves.

"They don't like the political system in Iraq because it's more democratic than any other system in the area, except Lebanon maybe. That's why they hate the idea that Iraq will be successful," said A Jasim.

Larry Diamond who took part in the restructuring of Iraq, is with the Hoover Institute. He says the stakes are high.

"The legacies of Bush and Obama are in a very strange and ironic way intertwined now, in terms of success or failure in Iraq," said Diamond.

On Tuesday with American troops back in their bases Iraq's test begins. U.S. troops will continue combat operations in rural areas, but the 650,000-member-Iraqi army will be in command of the major cities.

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