Japan’s Defence Minister announces withdrawal of troops from Iraq; Iraqi forces arrest al-Qaeda leaders; No Victory in Iraq: Gen David Petraeus
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  • Japan's defense minister announced that his country’s air defense troops would be withdrawn from Iraq. While no timetable was given for the withdrawal, a Kyodo News dispatch noted that it could happen before the end of the year. Japan's air force has been involved in airlifting materials and armed troops between Kuwait and locations in Iraq, including Baghdad, to help US-led coalition forces since 20061.

    A Iraqi defence ministry spokesman, Gen. Mohammed al-Askari revealed that three leaders of al-Qaeda were arrested in a raid in Diyala province and that three would-be suicide bombers were killed. Troops had raided two houses in the Kanaan district of Diyala, to the northwest of Baghdad, acting on a tip-off. They also seized about 10 bombs, six vehicles, weapons and other material. Iraqi forces have over the past few months stepped up their actions against al-Qaeda strongholds, notably in Diyala and in the northern city of Mosul2.

    The outgoing commander of US troops in Iraq, Gen David Petraeus, told reporters that the recent security gains were “not irreversible” and that the US still faced a “long struggle.” Gen. Petraeus had overseen the implementation of the ‘troop surge’, including the deployment of nearly 30,000 additional troops to trouble spots in Iraq.
    He summed up the situation as “still hard but hopeful,” saying that progress in Iraq was “a bit more durable” but that the situation remained fragile3.

    President George Bush meanwhile announced the withdrawal of 8,000 combat troops from Iraq in remarks made at the National Defence University. There are around 146,000 US forces in Iraq currently. Bush also hinted that more troops could return to the US in the first half of 2009 if conditions in Iraq improved further4.