A seemingly coordinated wave of bombings across Iraq killed dozens and appeared designed to undermine public confidence (NYT) in the Iraqi security forces. Violence has escalated ahead of the U.S. military's August 31 shift in operations from combat to assistance for Iraqi forces. The explosions also appeared to exploit political uncertainty around the unformed Iraqi government. U.S .and Iraqi officials say overall violence in Iraq has fallen since the height of sectarian killings in 2006 and 2007. But the targeting of members of Iraq's nascent security forces could undermine their ability to defend the country as the United States pulls out (Telegraph).
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks (BBC), though they are likely linked to a branch of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Iraq's top army officer recently suggested the country's military might not be ready to take control for another decade. Still, U.S. President Barack Obama has said all American troops will be out of Iraq (Bloomberg) by the end of next year, according to a signed agreement between the U.S. and Iraqi governments.
In the Asia Times, Gareth Porter says the administration expects to renegotiate the security agreement with the Iraqi government to allow a post-2011 combat presence of up to ten thousand troops once a new government is formed in Baghdad.
On the Daily Beast, Louise Roug says officials are not discussing that U.S. troops will still participate in counterterrorism operations, because "despite years of training costing billions of dollars, the 660,000 Iraqi security forces still can't operate fully without help."
On ForeignPolicy.com, John Negroponte says it is unlikely U.S. troops will stay beyond the 2011 deadline, since "political imperatives in both Iraq and the United States seem to work against this possibility."
Read President Obama's August 2 remarks on the Iraq draw down.