Iraqi police will take over responsibility for security in Baghdad from the army from July, a statement said on Tuesday, a move that has been delayed several times over concerns over their capabilities.
“The security committee of Baghdad provincial council announced that the security file in the capital will be handed over completely to interior ministry forces in July,” a statement on the interior ministry's website said.
Committee head Abdelkarim al-Zirab said in the statement that army forces will be redeployed “outside the city in locations close to the entrances to secure Baghdad's surrounding areas.”
Both army and police forces are deployed at checkpoints and other positions to provide security in the Iraqi capital, but soldiers currently provide the main defence for the heavily fortified Green Zone, where the Iraqi government is headquartered.
It was unclear if all soldiers would depart, or if some would remain deployed in the capital.
Iraqi authorities have planned a handover of security responsibility to the police several times, most recently mooting an end-2011 deadline, but the plans have been repeatedly delayed because of concerns the police are not yet capable of handling urban security on their own.
Since the US-led invasion of 2003, the new Iraqi security forces, especially the army, have been focused on quelling rampant internal violence, leaving gaps in its ability to face external threats.
But with violence having fallen sharply from its peak in 2006 and 2007, Iraq is spending billions to train and equip its military with an eye toward a more traditional external defence role. - Sapa-AFP