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Iraqis fear rise in violence as U.S. troops withdraw

BAGHDAD - Iraqis danced in the streets when U.S. troops withdrew from their cities a little over a year ago. After the last American combat brigade trundled across the border into Kuwait early yesterday, reversing a journey that began more than seven years ago, there was no rejoicing.

Instead, a mood of deep apprehension tinged with bitterness is taking hold as Iraqis digest the reality that the American invaders whom they once feared would stay forever are in fact going home - at a time when their country is facing a deep political crisis that many think could turn increasingly violent.

"I'm worried. They're leaving really early," said Wissam Sabah, a carpet seller. "We don't have a government, and we don't know what is going to happen next."

U.S. combat operations in Iraq won't officially end until Aug. 31, the deadline set by President Barack Obama for the reduction of the force to 50,000 troops. But with the departure of the last combat brigade this week, the formal battle mission is essentially over.

The U.S. military stresses that it still has a sizable number of troops, and that they will be equipped with considerable firepower. Los Angeles Times

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