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Iraqi troops to take control of former restive province

  • Story Highlights
  • Security transfer has been delayed twice since June
  • Anbar province was previously a hub for Sunni insurgents
  • More than 25,000 U.S. troops serve in province west of Baghdad
  • Those troops will remain there, shift to supporting role
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From Barbara Starr
CNN Pentagon Correspondent
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S.-led coalition troops are scheduled to hand over control of a onetime hub of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq to Iraqi forces on Monday, a senior American military official said.

Members of the Sunni Anbar Awakening, once insurgents, guard a meeting of Sunni and Shiite leaders in 2007.

Members of the Sunni Anbar Awakening, once insurgents, guard a meeting of Sunni and Shiite leaders in 2007.

The security transfer in Iraq's Anbar province originally was set for June, but it has been delayed twice.

The first postponement was blamed on a sandstorm, but days before the ceremony was to take place, there was also a suicide bombing at a meeting of tribal sheikhs in an Anbar town west of Baghdad.

The official said the handover was rescheduled after the sandstorm, but a new transfer date was not announced. The transfer then was delayed because Iraqi officials disagreed over how they would handle certain issues, the official said.

More than 25,000 U.S. troops, mostly Marines, serve in Anbar province. They will remain for the time being, the official said, but will shift their mission to supporting Iraqi forces when needed.

The turnover comes as Gen. David Petraeus -- the top U.S. commander in Iraq -- is scheduled to begin making his recommendations to President Bush and Defense Secretary Robert Gates on U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq, the official said.

The proposals could come as soon as month's end or in early September and could cover withdrawals over the next six to eight months, the official said.

Petraeus is set to leave the country on September 16 and assume his new role as head of the U.S. Central Command, which he will begin in October.

Anbar would be the 11th of Iraq's 18 provinces to revert to local security control. The move comes amid a big drop in violence in Iraq and calls from Iraqis for the United States to come up with a troop withdrawal timetable.

The other provinces that have transitioned to Iraqi security control are Duhuk, Irbil and Sulaimaniya in the Kurdish region and Karbala, Najaf, Qadisiya, Muthanna, Thiqar, Basra and Maysan in the Shiite south.

Anbar would be the first Sunni-dominated province to revert to Iraqi security control.

Once dominated by Sunni insurgents, it now is a bastion of tribal opposition. It is also the scene of an internal Sunni political struggle between the Iraqi Islamic Party, one of Iraq's main Sunni parties, and the Awakening movement, the first anti-al Qaeda in Iraq movement established in the country.

Other developments

  • A U.S. soldier died Wednesday after being wounded in a roadside bombing the day before, the U.S. military said. The soldier, from Multi-National Division-Baghdad, was in a vehicle struck by a roadside bomb in northeastern Baghdad, the military said.
  • Coalition troops northeast of Baghdad killed two people wearing suicide vests and an armed man in a raid Wednesday targeting al Qaeda in Iraq, the U.S. military said. The operation took place near Jalula, in Diyala province, and fighting began when insurgents refused to surrender. Troops also seized a suspected al Qaeda in Iraq leader who is thought to be responsible for insurgent attacks in the Hawija area of Tameem province, the military said. Five other people were detained in the raid.
  • A car bomb killed a civilian and wounded seven others Wednesday in eastern Baghdad, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said. Other bombings -- one in the northeast part of the Iraqi capital and the other in the central section -- left 11 civilians wounded, the ministry said.
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