Iraq: Obama won't speed pullout; clashes in Baghdad
President Barack Obama says he won't consider speeding up the troop pullout from Iraq despite supposed improvements in security. "I think the plan that we put forward in Iraq is the right one," he told CBS TV's "Face the Nation," calling for "a very gradual withdrawal through the national elections in Iraq."
"I'm confident that we're moving in the right direction. But Iraq is not yet completed. We still have a lot of work to do," the president said. Separately, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told "Fox News Sunday" that he hasn't seen "anything at this point that would lead me to think that there will be a need to change the timeline."
Iraqi security forces swept through an area of Baghdad on March 28, detaining several people, after Sunni militiamen angry at their leader's arrest clashed with police and troops in a battle that killed three people, two of them civilians. The clashes took place in the central Baghdad district of al-Fadhil after the arrest of Adil al-Mashhadani and one of his men.
Maj.-Gen. David Perkins, spokesman for US forces in Iraq, told journalists that Mashhadani was suspected of links to bomb-making cells, kidnappings, extortion and the al-Qaeda network. Some of the crimes were allegedly committed while he led a US-backed patrol unit, part of the "Awakening Councils" movement. (Arab Times, Kuwait, March 29; Reuters, March 30)