For Obama, Getting Out of Iraq May Not Be so Easy

In some ways Barack Obama’s hopes of withdrawing US troops more quickly are already being realised.

At least in Baghdad, you see far fewer US soldiers and convoys on the streets these days.

Iraqi soldiers and police do more of the patrols and police an ever-expanding maze of checkpoints and barriers.

By Andrew North
BBC News, Baghdad

US helicopters fly over Baghdad

All day long US helicopters patrol the skies above Baghdad to deter mortar fire

With so many different uniforms around, the problem is working out who you are dealing with when you are stopped.

So Iraqi security forces have already taken on a lot more responsibility.

But they still rely on the Americans for a lot of things, including some very sophisticated back-up.

All day long, Apache attack helicopters and US-controlled surveillance drones circle above Baghdad, watching everything below.

If someone fires a mortar towards the government buildings in the Green Zone for example, there’s a reasonable chance either the drones or the helicopters will spot the launch site.

Rarely do they get a chance for a second shot.

But the Americans are unlikely to be handing over this kind of technology to the Iraqis when they leave.

Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has been keen to demonstrate the greater capacity of his forces, but security experts here fear he doesn’t realise how dependent they remain on US support.

The real ‘surge’?

Mortars, bombs and shootings are of course much less common than a year ago.

But there are still incidents every day. While his supporters were celebrating Mr Obama’s triumph, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside Baghdad’s airport, killing four Iraqi policemen.

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