Maliki: Iraq 'independent' as US troops withdraw

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Maliki: Iraq 'independent' as US troops withdraw

Maliki: Iraq 'independent' as US troops withdraw
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Iraq’s prime minister has used a visit by the US Vice-President to declare his country independent.

Nouri al-Maliki said Iraq had won sovereignty and stood as an equal to the United States.

As the US formally ended combat operations, Joe Biden was in Baghdad to reassure Iraqis they are not being abandoned. “We’ll be just fine, they’ll be just fine”, he said.

Many Iraqis are apprehensive at the troop withdrawal, especially amid political deadlock six months after an inconclusive election. Others are sceptical, doubting much will change.

“We are still an occupied country. Whether the US army withdraws or not, we are still an occupied country,” said Iltifat, a Baghdad resident. “When the last US soldier leaves Iraqi soil and no American base remains in the country, then we will say that US troops have withdrawn.”

Another man, Abu Waleed, said he wanted rid of the Americans as soon as possible – on condition that they restored security first. “They are the ones who shook the country’s security. They have to secure the borders, and then they can complete their withdrawal,” he said.

More than ever, the onus will be on Iraqi forces to maintain order. The 50,000 US troops staying behind for another 16 months will train and support them.

But the deadline is largely symbolic. US soldiers already pulled out of urban areas last year, while those still in Iraq remain a formidable force.

“Homecoming: US troops return to Fort Bliss“