U.S. Troops Withdraw, Iraqis Celebrate

With U.S. troops now officially out of Iraq's cities and villages, Iraq declared June 30th as National Sovereignty Day. Though 131,000 American troops remain in the country and the complete withdrawal isn't expected until 2011, a giant party ensued on the streets of Baghdad on the eve of the changeover. But just before midnight, four U.S. soldiers were killed in combat. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill called the pullback a "milestone," and Prime Minister Nur Kamal al-Maliki announced, "The national united government succeeded in putting down the sectarian war that was threatening the unity and the sovereignty of Iraq." The celebration may, however, be more a government contrivance than public outburst: the New York Times reports that "cars were festooned with plastic flowers as if the entire police force was going to a wedding." According to Al Jazeera, prominent Iraqi politicians are concerned that Iraq's celebrations are premature. Said Usama al-Nujaifi, an Iraqi MP: "We think Iraqi forces are not up to the standards of maintaining Iraq's sovereignty and dignity and this could jeopardize Iraq's security."