U.S. Troops to Return More of Baghdad to Iraqi Forces

In a few days, control over the neighborhood of Bataween, a densely populated, low-income quarter in the heart of Baghdad, will be the sole responsibility of Iraqi forces, according to a senior [Iraqi] National Guard officer.

Brigadier General Abdujabbar Khalaf said by that with the transfer of Bataween to Iraqi authority, his forces would be in full control of four major areas of Baghdad.

Khalaf, commander of the 40th Brigade of the Iraqi army, said his troops had been gradually intensifying their presence in Baghdad, and have recently foiled two suicide bomb attacks.

“Our troops receive intensive training on how to search houses and storm trouble spots.

“They currently receive courses on how to use the Internet and other electronic gadgets to boost their confidence. It is the first time we have had such tolls in the Iraqi army,” he said.

Iraqi troops are now fully in charge of security in Baghdad’s Adhamiya district, the old Muthana Airport and restive al-Haifa Street.

“With Bataween, we will be responsible for security in four districts of Baghdad,” Khalaf said.

There has been ongoing controversy over whether Iraqi troops are prepared to take control from U.S. forces in Iraq’s major cities and towns.

Government figures now show that there are 136,000 trained and equipped Iraqi security forces.

But that number includes all government forces under arms, including police, special police commandos, border guards, the highway patrol, oil pipeline guards and several others.

Insurgents are targeting local troops, and at least 1,300 Iraqi soldiers have died due to car bombing attacks, ambushes and kidnappings.

Khalaf said that the government has agreed to give additional bonuses to families of Iraqi troops killed in action, and increase the pay for those now serving.

Families of dead soldiers receive 7 million dinars ($5,000) and a good pension, he added.

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