Deadly Attacks Across Iraq After U.S. Troop Numbers Drop Below 50K

Assaults targeted security forces that will be tasked with controlling country.

August 24, 2010, 9:16 PM

BAGHDAD, Aug. 25, 2010— -- Today's coordinated assault in Iraq, which included two dozen attacks spanning the country which killed 55 Iraqis, comes one day after U.S. troop numbers fell below 50,000 for the first time since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

The bombers mostly targeted security forces, which have suffered an increase in attacks in recent months just as the U.S. has trimmed its military presence. At least half of those killed today -- 31 -- were Iraqi soldiers and policemen, according to the Associated Press.

The attacks seem to strike right at the heart of the Obama administration's logic for withdrawal: that Iraqi troops are fit to take over the country.

"The [Iraqi Security Forces] are 650,000 strong and already leading the way to defend and protect their country," Vice President Joe Biden said Monday at a convention of the Veterans of Foreign Affairs. "The Iraqis are ready to take charge."

Lt. Col. Ross Coffman, commander of the U.S. Army's "Desert Rogues" battalion, patrolled Mosul today as reports of insurgent attacks which included improvised explosive devices were reported over the radio.

He and his men work and live with Iraqi security forces. Coffman says he has complete confidence in the Iraqi troops; he has often let them take the lead on missions and patrols.

"What I'm seeing here in 2010 is the Iraqi Army is more professional than I've ever seen it," he said.

But among Coffman's troops there were serious questions about the Iraqi forces.

"I think they're a lot more ready than they were a couple years ago, but they still have a ways to go," said Spc. Peyton Lopez.

An Iraqi soldier said that his peers could not keep the peace without the aid of U.S. combat troops.

To be fair, in Mosul, where attacks are down roughly 50 percent, the Iraqis have been in control of security for about a year.

"If this all works out the way I think it will, I think a lot of people are going to be surprised at how successful the Iraqi mission has been," Coffman said.

Iraqi Security Forces Doing Well

On Sunday, Gen. Ray Odierno said in interviews it is unlikely that U.S. troops will resume combat duties in Iraq.

"We don't see that happening," he said. The Iraqi security forces have been doing "so well for so long now that we really believe we're beyond that point."

Though about 50,000 U.S. troops will remain in the country until the end of 2011, they will serve as a training and assistance force while Iraqi forces handle internal security and protect Iraqis. Odierno did acknowledge Sunday that the Iraqis face a difficult road, with an unformed government and insurgents trying to fill the power vacuum.

Even Iraqi civilians said the exit of U.S. troops made them nervous.

"It's a bad decision," said one man named Abas, about the Americans pulling out of Iraq.

"Nothing is clear in Iraq," said an Iraqi named Sawat. "The only guarantee was the American forces. Now they leave."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.