Washington: Iraq`s military is ready and
able to take over security operations as the United States
ends it combat role and prepares for a major troop withdrawal,
the commander of US forces in Iraq said on Sunday.
General Ray Odierno said Iraq`s military has
"stepped up" to the challenge even as Iraqi politicians
continue to squabble over the formation of a new government
and new incidents of extremist violence are reported.
"We do believe they are ready to assume full
operations in Iraq," Odierno said on ABC`s "This Week." He
praised the Iraqi security forces for their professionalism
and neutrality during the months of political uncertainty that
followed elections earlier this year.
Odierno added, however, that it is critical for
Iraq to form a government after five months of delay, warning
that insurgents will try to take advantage of the political
"The Iraqis have to understand the importance of
forming the government," he said.
Violence has dropped dramatically in Iraq since
2008, but insurgent attacks remain a daily occurrence,
especially in the capital Baghdad, preventing the city from
regaining a semblance of normalcy seven years after the
insurgency broke out.
Still, violence has spiked over the past month as
the US moves ahead with a major drawdown of its troops to be
completed by the end of August, when only 50,000 will remain
in the country.
Today, a suicide car bomber struck a police patrol
in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, killing eight people and wounding
23, and a car bomb exploded in the former insurgent stronghold
of Fallujah, killing two people and injuring four. Those
followed attacks in the southern city of Basra, where
explosions hit a market and killed 43 people yesterday.
Odierno acknowledged that there were "ups and
downs" but spoke of a "broad change in the security
environment" as Iraqi security forces with US assistance move
"I think they can handle it," he said.