August 22, 2010

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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.

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“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.

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