Iraqi-Kurd force to take over in Kirkuk after US withdrawal

By REUTERS
July 27, 2011 14:52

 
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KIRKS, Iraq - Iraq's experimental Golden Lions security force made up of old foes is getting ready to stand alone as US forces withdraw along the potentially explosive fault line of Kirkuk, the disputed northern oil city.

Assembled as a beacon of stability in a volatile mix of Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, the Golden Lions brought together Iraqi soldiers and police with the peshmerga of the semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region under the watchful eye of US troops, who act as a buffer between the wary allies.

In the coming weeks, US soldiers will leave the Iraqi and Kurdish forces increasingly alone on checkpoints and patrols in Kirkuk, Nineveh and Diyala provinces, in areas claimed by the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdish capital Arbil.

With the US withdrawal from Iraq scheduled for year-end, more than eight years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, American troops hope the members of the amalgamated force can overcome years of animosity and hold together.

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