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Marines Plan Handoff To Militia in Fallujah

U.S. Marines will withdraw from this violence-wracked city and hand over responsibility for pursuing insurgents to a new militia headed by former Iraqi army officers under a deal brokered by the top Marine general in Iraq, military officials here said Thursday. In Washington, senior Pentagon officials insisted a final agreement had not yet been reached, but Marine commanders here said they had received orders to prepare for a pullout that would begin Friday. In one of Baghdad’s southern suburbs, meanwhile, eight U.S. soldiers were killed by a car bomb in one of the deadliest single attacks against American forces in weeks. The surprise agreement in Fallujah, which was authorized by Marine Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, is intended to give more responsibility to Iraqis for subduing the city while attempting defuse tensions by pulling Marines back from front-line positions. But some U.S. military and civilian officials privately expressed concern that Conway’s strategy involves too hasty a retreat and relies too heavily on Iraqis whose combat skills and allegiances have not been fully examined.Full Story

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