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MPs turn over Baghdad’s Green Zone as violence flares

U.S. Army soldiers from the 37th Engineer Company

From the Army Times

By David Larter

The 336th Military Police Battalion wrapped up a more than seven-year mission June 1 at a ceremony in Baghdad’s Green Zone, where it handed over security of entry-control points to Iraqi security forces, moving the U.S. closer to ending its mission in Iraq amid rising violence.

The early-morning ceremony took place in front of As Salaam palace, which formerly belonged to Saddam Hussein.

The MPs are no longer pulling security duties, but are still be available to respond to security threats upon request by the Iraqi government. The unit is also still charged with protecting the “enduring U.S. presence” until it leaves this summer as part of massive reduction in American troops, according to a release from officials with U.S. Forces-Iraq.

During its mission guarding the Green Zone entry control points, the battalion trained the Iraqi army’s 56th Brigade in gate security operations and provided security during Iraq’s bloody election in March.

The Green Zone, also called the International Zone, is the nerve center of the Iraqi government and home to the U.S. embassy.

Across Iraq, insurgents have carried out several high-profile attacks as the U.S. accelerates its drawdown. On June 9, Reuters reported an Army patrol was attacked by a suicide bomber on a motorcycle, killing two civilians. A spokesman with U.S. Forces Iraq confirmed the incident in Al-Muqdadiyah to Army Times but would not comment on whether any soldiers were hurt.

The Iraqi government recently released figures stating that 337 Iraqis had been killed in May, which is approximately 10 more than were killed in the same month in 2009, according to the site iraqbodycount.org, which tracks civilian deaths in Iraq. These numbers, though high, are far below 2006-2007 levels when thousands of Iraqis were being killed monthly by executions and suicide bombings.

During that time the idea of a safe area within Baghdad came under scrutiny because it gave the impression Iraqis within the Green Zone were protected as the rest of the country descended into a sectarian war.

The 2007 surge that poured U.S. troops into the streets of Baghdad with the mission of “clear, hold and build” was partly to lock down the rest of the city that had struggled to contain violence. As the death toll among civilians spiked, so did U.S. combat deaths; 904 troops were killed in Iraq in 2007, the worst death toll in a single year of the war, according to icasulties.org.

The death toll has dropped every year since the surge among U.S. troops and among Iraqi civilians. This year 32 U.S. troops have died in Iraq.

Today the Green Zone is still a relatively safe haven. About 140,000 Iraqis and 24,000 vehicles enter its control points weekly, according to USF-I officials.

U.S. troops will continue to have a small presence in the Green Zone to train the Iraqis and guard the American embassy.

View the original article at Veterans Today

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