February 26, 2009

Some of the U.S. forces likely to remain in Iraq after President Barack Obama fulfills his pledge to withdraw combat troops would still have a combat role fighting suspected terrorists, the Pentagon said yesterday. Obama plans to announce his withdrawal strategy as early as tomorrow. He is expected to choose a compromise 19-month plan that leaves behind as many as 50,000 troops for cleanup and protection operations. Although most of the fighting forces would be withdrawn within 18 months, some of those units could be in Iraq for years to come. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that a holdover, or “residual,” force would number in the tens of thousands.

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Iraqi authorities ordered the mid-flight return of a plane carrying a Sunni lawmaker accused of directing a private terror cell, forcing him back to Baghdad yesterday, hours before parliament lifted his immunity and cleared the way for his arrest. Mohammed al-Dayni faces allegations he masterminded a string of attacks that include a 2007 suicide bombing inside the parliament building and mortar strikes on the Green Zone. He had left the airport and by nightfall was the target of a nationwide manhunt. Al-Dayni has denied the charges, calling them part of a campaign by the Shia-led government to silence critics. He claims he was traveling to Jordan to see family when authorities ordered the Iraqi Airways jet to return to Baghdad just as it was about to leave Iraqi airspace.

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