The municipal council of Sadr City, Baghdad’s most populated quarter where more than 2 million people live, has reached a new agreement with U.S. troops on policing the impoverished town.
Under the terms of the agreement, U.S. troops have agreed to withdraw from the city and leave security to its fledgling police force. "We have set up a security operations room in the city … the Americans are part of it … the tasks are to boost security and to identify strangers and those causing trouble," said Hassan Shamaa, the mayor of Sadr City. Shamaa said that the Americans have agreed, "to withdraw once we have enough police officers in place."
The agreement is good news for many Iraqis who do not want to see U.S. tanks and armored vehicles in their areas. It also proves that U.S. troops are willing to leave residential areas once they are sure Iraqi forces are capable of maintaining security. But Shamaa did not say when Iraqi forces will be fully ready to take over security from American troops, but he said that he was in contact with the ministries of Interior and Defense as well as the prime minister to strengthen Sadr City’s security forces.
Sadr City rose up against U.S. occupation forces last year, as militias of militant cleric Moqtada Sadr fought street battles in the city’s warren of lanes and one-story houses. But the militias have laid down their weapons, opting to use peaceful and political means to achieve their goal of ending the presence of foreign troops on Iraqi soil.
If Iraqi forces succeed in policing Sadr City on their own, the experiment is likely to spill over to other areas of the restive Iraqi capital. Shamaa, however, said he hoped the withdrawal of U.S. troops from his city would not end U.S. aid. He said his city needs immediate help to rebuild public utilities like water and electricity.
Despite promises of massive aid after the agreement last year, under which the militias opted for peace, Shamaa said that only a trickle had reached his city.