- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 18, 2010


WASHINGTON (AP) — The planned withdrawal of nearly 45,000 U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of August is on track in spite of a recent increase in attacks by militant forces, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq said Sunday.

Army Gen. Ray Odierno said that al Qaeda’s strength in Iraq is degrading steadily. Unless there’s a dramatic and unforeseen change in the security situation, the U.S. troop drawdown will go ahead as scheduled, he said.

About 95,000 U.S. troops are now in Iraq, according to Gen. Odierno. The United States plans to cut that number to 50,000 by Aug. 31, when it will end combat operations.

“I fully expect us to be at 50,000 by the first of September,” Gen. Odierno said on “Fox News Sunday.”

As part of an agreement with Iraq, the United States will withdraw all forces by the end of 2011.

Gen. Odierno’s remarks came as he prepares to leave Iraq at the end of the summer as part of a scheduled rotation. His replacement will be Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, the staff director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Associated Press reported last week. The Pentagon has not made the formal announcement.

“Nobody has contacted me yet about leaving,” said Gen. Odierno, who has been the senior U.S. commander in Iraq since 2008.

A wave of deadly bombings in and around Baghdad following Iraq’s disputed March 7 parliamentary elections raised doubts about whether Iraqi security forces were prepared to protect the country as American forces began to leave.

But Gen. Odierno described al Qaeda in Iraq as an enemy on the run. The number of attacks and casualties to civilians and military personnel dropped in the first three months of 2010, he said.

“Iraqi security forces are now in the lead at going after al Qaeda,” he said.

Neighboring Iran continues to play a destabilizing role, providing lethal aid and training for insurgent elements, Odierno said. Asked if he would like the authority to go into Iran and take out the training camps, he said he doesn’t think it is necessary to conduct such operations.

“I think what’s more important is to build up the Iraqi capability to protect their own homeland,” he said.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide