BAGHDAD – The Iraqi military has turned down several requests from American forces to move unescorted through Baghdad and conduct a raid since the transition of responsibility for urban security at the end of last month, an Iraqi military commander said Monday.
U.S. combat troops withdrew from urban areas on June 30 under a security agreement with Iraq that requires all U.S. troops to be out of the country by the end of 2011.
Col. Ali Fadhil, a brigade commander in Baghdad, compared the new restrictions on the U.S. military to "house arrest" on bases. However other Iraqi officials said U.S. troops outside of cities are still free to move without Iraqi approval.
Outside urban areas, Americans are assisting with the search and arrest of insurgents, manning checkpoints and continuing ongoing efforts to train Iraqi forces — from medics to helicopter pilots. U.S. soldiers recently advised Iraqi soldiers during a seven-hour humanitarian aid drop in Diyala province.
The U.S. military in Iraq had no immediate comment Monday on the relationship with its Iraqi counterparts. But it has said previously it remains available to assist them and has noted progress despite lingering questions about the Iraqi military's resolve and training.
In Washington, the Pentagon said the two forces are cooperating.
"We continue to work closely with Iraqi security forces and coordinate operations as we implement the security agreement," said Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman.
Fadhil spoke to The Associated Press about conditions in Baghdad, where violence has dropped dramatically since the sectarian bloodletting and insurgent attacks that swept much of the country in past years.
He cited several occasions in which Iraqi troops turned down U.S. requests to move around the capital, and in one instance to conduct a raid — the Iraqis carried out that operation themselves.
"They are now more passive than before," he said of U.S. troops. "I also feel that the Americans soldiers are frustrated because they used to have many patrols, but now they cannot. Now, the American soldiers are in prison-like bases as if they are under house-arrest."
On July 11, an American soldier shot and killed a truck driver, an Iraqi citizen, who did not respond to warnings to stop on a highway north of Baghdad. On July 9, a civilian Iraqi motorist died in a head-on collision with a U.S. Army Stryker vehicle, the lead vehicle of a joint U.S.-Iraqi convoy in western Diyala province.
But things are different in Baghdad.
Fadhil said an American patrol wanted to pass through an area in west Baghdad during daytime hours.
"I prevented them and told them they were not allowed unless they had approval, and even if they had approval, Iraqi forces had to accompany them," he said.
Another time, Fadhil said a U.S. patrol wanted to leave the walled-off Green Zone, which houses the U.S. embassy and Iraqi government headquarters, to travel less than a mile to nearby Muthana Air Base. Again, they were told that Iraqi troops had to accompany them.
When an American patrol wanted to arrest an enemy target in a Sunni area of west Baghdad, Fadhil said he told them: "No, you cannot." He said he told the U.S. troops they had to hand over the tip about the target to Iraqi troops, who later made the arrest.
Iraqi military spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi cited three other incidents in early July when U.S. patrols violated the security pact in parts of Baghdad. He said they were addressed at a committee of top U.S. and Iraqi officials, who meet regularly to resolve disagreements about U.S. and Iraqi troop movements.
Hadi al-Amiri, a lawmaker and member of the parliament's security and defense committee, said the Americans' withdrawal from the cities went very smoothly.
Iraqi forces face near-daily attacks in urban areas, though most of the violence is not on the scale of the past.
On Monday, a car bomb killed two police officers and injured eight civilians in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, said Maj. Gen. Tareq Youssef, the police chief of Anbar province. Ramadi, the provincial capital, was once a stronghold of Sunni insurgents.
Four police and one civilian died in attacks in and near the northern city of Mosul, Iraqi police said.