Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Petraeus decides not to send U.S. troops to Basra

(AFP) - The US military is taking a "wait and see" stance on developments in the southern Iraqi port of Basra but believes the Iraqi military can handle violence between factions competing for power, the US commander in Iraq said Wednesday. General David Petraeus said some small US special forces elements may be sent to the south to work with Iraqi forces, but not a larger US presence as Britain scales back its mission in the south.
"So I think we're in a wait-and-see approach with Basra. But we have every expectation that Basra will be resolved by Iraqis," he said at a press conference here. Petraeus, who was grilled by Congress for two days about the situation in Iraq, is scheduled to depart next week for London for talks on Britain's plans in Iraq.
The 5,500-British force has been pulled into an air base outside Basra since last week's handover of its last base inside the city, and plans call for reducing that force by 500 troops in the coming weeks. The British pull-back from bases in the south has been accompanied by a rise of factional violence among Shiite militias competing for control of the oil rich region, which has Iraq's only major port on the Gulf. Petraeus said the violence has subsided over the past month because of accommodations worked out by the Iraqis.
There are "lots of challenges, don't get me wrong," he said. "There's militia infiltration... All these different parties have elements and different structures in Iraq. "But they have come to accommodations that are allowing the functioning of activities down there. And, certainly, the oil has been flowing and the ports have been moving, and all the rest of that.
Petraeus said a four star Iraqi general has been assigned to the south and the Iraqi are moving in a special operations forces battalion and elements of a mechanized battalion while swapping out some army brigades. "In many cases, in that area, the presence of those forces, again, when it comes to intra-Shia rivalries, can sometimes be enough to keep the situation one in which they're shouting rather than shooting," he said.

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