Almotamar.net, AP - BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's government welcomed reports Wednesday of a U.S. combat troop withdrawal next year and said Iraqi forces would be ready to take full responsibility for security.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki supports an accelerated pullout and Iraqi officials will work closely with American commanders under a possible timetable to remove U.S. soldiers from the battlefield by August 2010, said Sadiq al-Rikabi, one of al-Maliki's top advisers.
The comments come after reports that President Barack Obama was expected to order all U.S. combat troops to leave Iraq by August of next year. An announcement by Obama could come as early as this week, a senior White House official told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Al-Rikabi said al-Maliki expressed "no worry" about U.S. forces moving out quicker than the standing agreement for a withdrawal by the end of 2011.
"The Iraqi troops are ready to take responsibility. There is nothing to worry about and the withdrawal will be carried out in coordination between the two sides," he said.
Obama's announcement will speed up the timeline of a U.S.-Iraqi security pact, which took effect Jan. 1, calling for American troops to withdraw from Iraq's cities by June 30 and completely pull out troops by the end of 2011.
For months, al-Maliki has publicly said he believes Iraq's security forces are prepared to stand on their own despite lingering questions about their readiness.
But the withdrawal of combat troops under Obama's plan would still have U.S. troops in Iraq well after parliamentary elections this year, which military officials have said is one of the next big security tests. There are more than 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
Reaction among Iraqis was mixed.
"I have no trust with Iraqi security forces that they could keep security because army and security forces were built on a sectarian basis," sad Thabit Mohammed Jassim, a 40-year-old Sunni shop owner in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown.
Jassim said he believed violence would likely climb after American combat troops leave Iraq.
"Obama wants to withdraw not for Iraqis, but because of economic problems they face internally and of hardships his troops are facing in Iraq," he said.
But Hussein Jassim Mohammed, a 35-year-old Shiite from Baghdad, said he would like to see U.S. troops leave sooner rather than later.
"We hope the withdrawal will take place sooner, before the given timetable," he said, adding that it was "a good step for Iraqis to secure" their own country.
Mohammed said there were some who worried about an increase in violence, but said it was time for "security forces to live up to their responsibility."
But in Mosul, where U.S. and Iraqi forces continue to battle insurgents, Ziyad al-Sinjari, a 35-year-old Sunni, was less optimistic about the stability of the Iraqi security forces.
"The new Iraqi army lacks experts. It needs the expertise of former Iraqi military officers," said al-Sinjari, who works at Mosul University. "I hope the withdrawal will be soon, so militants have no pretext of launching attacks against Americans in cities and hurting (civilians)."
In Najaf, a Shiite shrine city in southern Iraq, Ibrahim Ihsan said he wants to see foreign forces leave Iraq.
"I have no doubts that Iraqi soldiers are qualified to shoulder the security responsibilities in the country," said the 55-year-old retiree.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is seriously concerned about an increase in fighting in the city of Taiz.
In a press release issued on Friday, the ICRC said that there has been indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas, and essential infrastructure is being destroyed.
"We call on the parties on the ground in Taiz to allow the safe passage of ambulances, medical workers and aid workers so that lives can be saved and the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian assistance can be made possible," said the head of the ICRC in Taiz, Olivier Chassot.
The ICRC indicated that the health situation in the governorate is particularly dire. The handful of hospitals still functioning are having to deal with large numbers of wounded people as well as severe shortage of supplies. The ICRC has had serious difficulties in delivering lifesaving medical and surgical supplies to a number of hospitals in Taiz.
The European Union (EU) has affirmed that the recent airstrikes on Hodeida port imposed an immediate hindrance to imports food, fuel, medicines and other supplies.
A joint Statement by the Spokespersons of the High Representative / Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides on the bombings in Yemen of port facilities in Hodeida said:
“The current conflict in Yemen is having a dramatic impact on the civilian population whose needs have reached alarming proportions. Access for the delivery of humanitarian aid and essential supplies, including fuel, food and basic commodities to ordinary Yemenis remains extremely difficult.
The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has described the humanitarian situation in Yemen as catastrophic.
"The humanitarian situation is nothing short of catastrophic. Every family in Yemen has been affected by this conflict. The people are facing immense hardship. And it is getting worse by the day. The world needs to wake up to what is going on," said Peter Maurer, who just ended a three-day visit to Yemen on Tuesday.
"The compounded effects of intense fighting and import restrictions are having a dramatic impact on health care," Maurer said. "Health facilities have been massively attacked as well as suffering collateral damage."
President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Peter Maurer has said that the ICRC will expand its activities in Yemen.
In a press conference in Sana’a on Sunday, Maurer affirmed that his visit will achieve positive and prompt results with regards to the humanitarian response in Yemen.
He said that he is optimistic that the visit will result in doubling the ICRC efforts to face this “disastrous” situation as what the ICRC and its partners currently provide cannot cover all the humanitarian aspects, specially that the country is under siege.
The Saudi aggression continued on Sunday to launch airstrikes on several governorates in the country.
A security source said Saudi war jets launched a number of raids on different parts of Hajjah governorate, destroying the building of the Roads and Bridges Authority in Haradh town in addition to many air raids carried out by drones in the town.
The Saudi warplanes also launched many raids on al-Hamara area of Lahj governorate, which led to numerous fatalities, including women and children. More than 16 sorties were carried out against areas of Muthalath al-Anad, al-Anad Air Base, Abain and Karesh, the source said.
In Dhamar governorate, the Saudi warplanes launched an airstrike targeted the Yemeni Economic Corporation building in Ma'abar city.
The United Nations has announced that the number of Yemeni internally displaced persons (IDPs) due the military aggression had doubled in less than two weeks.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that the number of Yemeni IDPs had increased twice in 19 governorates since 17 April 2015 when 150 thousand Yemeni IDPs were registered.
It warned of the gravity of situations in Yemen because of the aggression.
The statement pointed out that the big number of IDPs are from the northern Hajjah governorate, in addition to southern Al-Dhalea and Abyan governorates.
Amnesty International has called for investigating the killing of hundreds of civilians, including scores of children, by the Saudi Arabian-led airstrikes across Yemen.
"The month-long campaign of air strikes carried out by Saudi Arabia and its allies has transformed many parts of Yemen into a dangerous place for civilians," said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.
"Millions of people have been forced to live in a state of utter terror, afraid of being killed at home. Many feel they are left with no choice but to move away from their destroyed villages to an uncertain future."
The UN has stated that more than 550 civilians have been killed including more than 100 children since the military campaign began on 25 March.
Amnesty International said it has documented eight strikes in five densely populated areas, which are Sa'ada, Sana'a, Hodeida, Hajjah and Ibb, noting that several of these strikes raised concerns about compliance with the rules of international humanitarian law.
According its research, Amnesty International said at least 139 people, including at least 97 civilians, 33 of whom were children were killed during the strikes, and 460 individuals were injured, at least 157 whom are civilians.