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The U.S. military has officially signed over ownership of Camp Ramadi to the Iraqi government, though American troops are not scheduled to leave the base before 2012.

According to the U.S. command in Baghdad, a memorandum of agreement has been drawn up and signed "outlining the areas that will continue to be used by Coalition forces."

American and other troops have operated from Camp Ramadi since shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. For several years, Ramadi was among the deadliest battlegrounds for American troops and was the heartland of the Sunni insurgency. Rocket and mortar attacks on the base were common, and most nights, the sounds of battle from within the city could clearly be heard throughout the sprawling camp.

Over the past two years, though, Sunni tribal leaders have allied themselves with the U.S. military and violence has plummeted, turning the city into one of the more frequently touted success stories in Iraq.

The signing over of the base is "a step toward Coalition forces pulling out and handing complete responsibility and control back over to the Iraqis," according to a U.S. military statement.

Documents handing the base back to Iraq were signed by officials including the deputy commander of Multi-National Force—West; the Iraqi Council of Ministers Operations; and the Iraqi army. The memorandum acts as a "tenant agreement" for the U.S. troops who are scheduled to remain on Camp Ramadi through 2011, officials said.

Camp Ramadi was formerly known as Camp Junction City, and is now the last of the coalition-only bases left in Ramadi. There are several smaller bases that house both Iraqi and foreign troops.

Although the handover is now official, "the majority of the troops stationed on Camp Ramadi will notice little change, if any."

"Force protection measures will not be changed. All camp improvement projects will continue. Iraqis will take a look at the buildings on Camp Ramadi to see if it is something they want to keep. The physical structures built on Camp Ramadi will either be prepared to be handed over in 2011 or torn down."

"For those of us who physically live on Camp Ramadi, it really doesn’t change the normal day-to-day operations. What it does mean, from a long-term perspective, is that Coalition forces are giving back the bases and land to the Iraqis, due to their sovereignty," Lt. Col. Kevin McMahan, the Camp Ramadi operations officer, was quoted as saying.


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