PM says Iraqi forces ready to take over Basra as Bush asks for more time
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Iraqi security forces will be ready to take over security duties in the southern city of Basra when British forces hand them over at the outset of September. All British bases in Basra came under mortar fire over the past day, the British military said Wednesday.
The Iraqi chief of police in Basra was attacked by gunmen as he exited a British base on Tuesday, the military statement said, according to the AP. British and Iraqi forces fought off the gunmen as the police chief went back into the base for protection, it said.
Al-Maliki told a visiting delegation from the defense committee of Britain's House of Commons Tuesday that Iraqi forces "have already begun to take principle responsibility for the security mission, with the British forces playing the role of support when needed," according to a statement from the prime minister's office.
He reassured them of the "readiness of the Iraqi forces to receive security duties in Basra at the beginning of September."
Meanwhile, President George W. Bush pleaded for more time for his Iraq strategy to work Tuesday, despite a growing Republican criticism and a barrage of Democratic demands to bring US troops home. According to AFP, Bush said generals on the battlefield must decide troop strength, not frustrated politicians in Washington.
The president stated that he had a "plan to lead to victory" despite a bloody three-month period of US combat deaths and raging violence in Iraq. Bush also asked lawmakers to wait for the US commander in Iraq to deliver a key progress report on his troop surge strategy, due in September.
"I call upon the United States Congress to give General David Petraeus a chance to come back and tell us whether his strategy is working, and then we can work together on a way forward," Bush said.