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Poll: Majority of Iraqi Youths Want U.S. to Withdraw

A masked gunman stands on a street corner as a building burns nearby in southern Iraqi town of Amarah.AP

Majorities of Iraqi youth in Arab regions of the country believe security would improve and violence decrease if the U.S.-led forces left immediately, according to a State Department poll that provides a window into the grim warnings provided to policymakers.

The survey — unclassified, but marked "For Official Government Use Only" — also finds that Iraqi leaders may face particular difficulty recruiting young Sunni Arabs to join the stumbling security forces. Strong majorities of 15- to 29-year-olds in two Arab Sunni areas — Mosul and Tikrit-Baquba — would oppose joining the Iraqi army or police.

The poll has its shortcomings; regional samples are small and the results do not say how many people refused to respond to questions. The private polling firm hired by the State Department also was not able to interview residents of al-Anbar, a Sunni-dominated province and an insurgent stronghold.

But the findings of the summer survey — circulated to policymakers last month and obtained by The Associated Press last week — nevertheless provide a solemn reminder of the difficulty that the U.S.-backed Iraqi government faces as it tries to add ethnic diversity to its security institutions.