General Says Combat Troop Withdrawal from Iraq Still on Track for September 1

General Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said that U.S. forces are still on schedule for a September 1 deadline to withdraw combat troops from the country.  Odierno has said that Iraqi security forces have been systematically given more responsibility in ground operations over the past few months.  The General said that Iraqi forces have been up to the challenge, and he is confident they will be able to sustain stability in the region once U.S. forces have removed combat troops.  September 1 marks a deadline set to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq from 80,000 to 50,000. 

In the run-up to the deadline, violence has once again flared in the Middle Eastern country.  As the Iraqi government finds itself squabbling over who should be Prime Minister months after the March elections, there has been a significant rise in violence in the country.  July was the deadliest month in Iraq in the past two years.  August started much the same, as a series of explosives killed 43 people in a Basra market.

When asked about the troubled government, Odierno did not waste words.  While he said he understands the need for Iraq to develop their government, and he feels they have made significant progress on the front, the government situation has nothing to do with U.S. forces reducing combat troops.  The September 1 deadline has little to do with the government and everything to do with Iraqi security forces being able to sustain stability in the country.  Odierno once again pointed out that he was confident the Iraqi security forces were up to the task.  He also noted that the troop withdrawal would not leave Iraq on their own.  There will still be American military forces on the ground in Iraq offering support to help keep the country stable, only they will be in a supplemental role, as opposed to heading the charge.

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