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September 30, 2005 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-09-30

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NEWS

The Michigan Daily - Friday, September 30, 2005 - 5

Iraq withdrawal plans
called into question

WASHINGTON (AP) - The num-
ber of Iraqi battalions capable of com-
bat without U.S. support has dropped
from three to one, the top American
commander in Iraq told Congress
yesterday, prompting Republicans to
question whether U.S. troops will be
able to withdraw next year.
Gen. George Casey, softening his
previous comments that a "fairly sub-
stantial" pull out could begin next
spring and summer, told lawmakers
that troops might begin coming home
from Iraq next year depending on con-
ditions during and after the upcoming
elections there.
"The next 75 days are going to be
critical for what happens," Casey told
the Senate Armed Services Commit-
tee.
The Bush administration says train-
ing Iraqi security forces to defend
their own country is the key to bring-
ing home U.S. troops. But Republicans
pressed Casey on whether the United
States was backsliding in its efforts to
train Iraqis.
In June; the Pentagon told lawmak-
ers that three Iraqi battalions were
fully trained, equipped and capable
of operating independently. Yesterday,
Casey said only one battalion is ready.
"It doesn't feel like progress," said
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
Despite the drop, Casey hailed sig-
nificant progress in training Iraqi secu-
rity forces and noted that U.S. troops

0

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld gestures during a news conference on
Tuesday in Washington.

We are not the children of lithography. POSITIONS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE

are embedded with more Iraqi units in
mentoring roles than before. "Have we
lost ground? Absolutely not," Casey
said.
Casey said the Pentagon's standard
for what constitutes a fully capable
Iraqi battalion is high and that it's been
difficult to ensure logistic'al support for
Iraqi units. "I understand what you're
saying, how it could be perceived as
disappointing," he told Collins.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., ques-
tioned why the generals are discussing
troop withdrawals when it's clear Iraqi
security forces aren't ready.
"You're taking a very big gamble
here. I hope you're correct. I don't see
the indicators yet that we are ready
to plan or begin troop withdrawals
given the overall security situation.
And that just isn't my opinion alone,"
he said.

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Palestinians crack down on guns

JERUSALEM (AP) - Palestinian
authorities began enforcing a ban on
public displays of weapons yesterday,
arresting three people and confiscating
the guns of off-duty police officers in a
key step toward imposing order in the
chaotic Gaza Strip.
The crackdown came as dozens of
Palestinian towns and villages in the
West Bank held municipal elections. The
powerful Hamas movement was expect-
ed to make strong gains, despite a con-
tinuing Israeli offensive against Islamic
militants.
Pressing 'forward with its military
campaign, Israeli soldiers killed three
Palestinian gunmen during raids in

the West Bank. Israel launched the
wave of airstrikes and arrest raids
last weekend in response to Gaza
militants' rocket attacks on southern
Israeli towns.
The offensive raised pressure on
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to
act against militant groups and armed
gangs, which operate openly in Gaza.
Israel says there can be no peace talks
until the groups are disarmed.
In a move to bring order to Gaza, Pal-
estinian officials announced a ban on
public displays of weapons yesterday,
and Hamas said it would honor it.
The Palestinian police chief, Ala
Husni, said that in the wake of Israel's

recent pullout from Gaza there is no lon-
ger a reason for anyone other than secu-
rity officers to carry weapons.
"The role of resistance weapons has
ended in the streets. They should go back
into storage and they should not show up
in the streets," he told a news confer-
ence. "Any weapon now in the street is a
criminal weapon." He said there were no
plans to seize stored weapons.
Interior Ministry spokesman Tawfiq
Abu Khoussa said authorities arrested
three men carrying Kalashnikov assault
rifles yesterday and confiscated their
weapons. Several security officers also
were arrested for carrying guns while
off duty, he said.

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