Washington: It would take "a complete
failure" of the Iraqi security forces for the US to resume
combat operations there, the top American commander in Iraq
said as the final US fighting forces prepared to leave the
With a major military milestone in sight, Gen Ray Odierno
said in interviews broadcast today that any resumption of
combat duties by American forces is unlikely.
"We don`t see that happening," Odierno said. The Iraqi
security forces have been doing "so well for so long now that
we really believe we`re beyond that point."
President Barack Obama plans a major speech on Iraq after
his return to Washington, according to a senior administration
official who spoke on condition of anonymity Sunday because
details were being finalised. The speech will come shortly
after Obama returns to the White House on August 29 from his
Martha`s Vineyard vacation.
About 50,000 US troops will remain in the country until
the end of 2011 to serve as a training and assistance force, a
dramatic drawdown from the peak of more than 170,000 during
the surge of American forces in 2007.
Obama will face a delicate balancing act in his speech
between welcoming signs of progress and concluding to the
7-year-old war without prematurely declaring the mission
accomplished, as his former President George W Bush once did.
US involvement in Iraq beyond the end of 2011, Odierno
said, probably would involve assisting the Iraqis secure their
airspace and borders.
While Iraq forces can handle internal security and
protect Iraqis, Odierno said he believes military commanders
want to have the US involved beyond 2011 to help Iraqis
acquire the required equipment, training and technical
He said Iraq`s security forces have matured to the point
where they will be ready to shoulder enough of the burden to
permit the remaining 50,000 soldiers to go home at the end of
If the Iraqis asked that American troops remain in the
country after 2011, Odierno said US officials would consider
it, but that would be a policy decision made by the president
and his national security advisers.
Odierno`s assessment, while optimistic, also acknowledges
the difficult road ahead for the Iraqis as they take control
of their own security, even as political divisions threaten
the formation of the fledgling democracy.