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(Reuters) - The top U.S. military commander in Iraq said local security forces will be ready for the withdrawal of American troops next year, but the United States could return to combat operations if needed.
The Pentagon plans to cut troop numbers in Iraq to 50,000 by September 1 -- down from 176,000 at the peak of the deployment after the 2003 invasion to topple dictator Saddam Hussein.
U.S. troops will stay in Iraq in an "advise-train-assist" role until the end of next year, Army General Raymond Odierno said in an interview aired on Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" program.
"But they certainly have the ability to protect themselves and if necessary to conduct ... combat operations if it was required," said Odierno, chief architect of the 2007 troop surge in Iraq. The general said the "insurgency is suppressed" and, despite continued violence, the overall security situation in Iraq is improving along with the ability of the Iraqi state to protect people and conduct government functions.
U.S. troops, however, could move back to a combat role if there was "a complete failure of the security forces" or if political divisions split Iraqi security forces.
"But we don't see that happening," Odierno said.
Originally posted by intrepid
Things never change do they. Guys check out Country Joe on Youtube. That song just as easily been recorded today. Can't post it. There's some language.
[edit on 22-8-2010 by intrepid]