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BAGHDAD – Militiamen and followers of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr led a massive rally on Thursday, marching in Baghdad in a show of force as Iraqi leaders weigh whether to keep U.S. troops in the country beyond the end of the year.
U.S., Israeli and British flags were painted on the pavement to be stomped on by the marching protesters, and Iraqi military helicopters buzzed overhead while soldiers stood guard to keep peace if needed. Organizers said at least 700,000 militiamen and al-Sadr supporters had taken to the streets while the U.S. military estimated the crowd at about 70,000.
Under a security agreement between Washington and Baghdad, the 46,000 combat troops still in Iraq are required to leave by Dec. 31. But Iraq's widespread instability has led U.S. and Iraqi leaders to reconsider the deadline for the sake of the country's security.
Already, American forces in Baghdad and southern Iraq have seen an increase in rocket and mortar attacks as well as roadside bombs in recent months. U.S. officials have blamed the uptick on Shiite militias backed by Iran who are trying to take credit for driving American forces from Iraq.
I wish we would GTFO and mind our own business, let them deal with their own problems. We went in there for a reason, we did what we set out to do, and how many years now has it been since?