Bureaucratic "error" delays US-Iraqi handover
Baghdad, Sept 2: A ceremony in which Iraq was to assume operational command of its new armed forces from US-led troops was postponed today at the last minute amid confusion, a US military spokesman said, citing poor planning.
The event had been hailed by the US military as a big step towards Iraq taking responsibility for security, key to any eventual withdrawal of US forces. US commanders, with 140,000 troops on the ground, would still have a big say.
''There was an error in planning between us and the Iraqi defence minister over the ceremony. This all boils down to a bureaucratic thing,'' said Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson, adding that the ceremony had been rescheduled for tomorrow.
Johnson played down suggestions the glitch reflected logistic and communication problems between the two forces.
Reporters who had been invited to attend the ceremony in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone were left sitting in a bus for more than one hour as the US military first informed them that the event had been delayed for later in the day and then postponed until tomorrow.
The US military, suffering almost daily casualties, has been training Iraq's new military so that it can begin withdrawing some of its own soldiers.
Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has said his forces would take control of most of Iraq from US-led foreign troops by the end of the year.
The top US commander in Iraq, General George Casey, who was scheduled to attend the ceremony, said this week he saw Iraqi forces having control of their own security in the next 12-18 months.