This is an important week in Iraq. U.S. forces will redeploy to bases outside of Iraqi cities on Tuesday. That means Iraqi forces will be in charge of security. But recent attacks have some questioning if this is the right time for such a move.
At least 80 people were killed in a recent truck bombing in a Baghdad market. The attack was just the latest in a strong of terror operations that has seen close to 200 Iraqis killed in June alone. They have called to mind a much bloodier era in Iraqi history--before the 2007 U.S. troop surge. Back then, al Qaeda and Shiite militias wreaked havoc across the country.
Things are different now. Violence is at an all-time low and life has returned to normal in many Iraqi neighborhoods.
Still, as the U.S. military prepares to hand security over to Iraqi forces, the question lingers: are they ready?
U.S. officials say yes.
"Despite the fact that you've seen sporadic high-profile attacks still taking place in Iraq, the overall security climate is a good one and -- and we remain at all-time low," said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.
U.S. military officials say an upswing in attacks was anticipated in the run-up to Tuesday's handoff. They're confident Iraqis won't let al-Qaeda and other terror groups reestablish a foothold.
"When you talk to the average Iraqi, they're tired of al Qaeda at this point," said U.S. Army Lt. Col Samuel Hayes. "And they're ready to move forward."
The U.S. can move forces back into cities for security reasons if called upon by the Iiraqi government. But the plan right now is to continue to train Iraqi forces prior to a complete U.S. withdrawal in 2011.