Sep 30, 12:40 PM EDT
Top US general in Iraq calls it a key partner
By LARA JAKES
WASHINGTON (AP) — The top American commander in Iraq on Wednesday warned Congress against losing sight of that nation as a key Mideast ally, even as safer conditions have let him send home more U.S. troops faster than expected.
Army Gen. Ray Odierno did not directly address the impact that the war in Afghanistan is having on his mission as he makes sure Iraq’s military and political systems are stable enough to stand alone by the time U.S. forces leave at the end of 2011.
But Afghanistan was on the minds of lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee who wanted to know whether U.S. troops and equipment were being shifted there.
“As you know, our military has been greatly stressed over the past several years,” said the committee’s chairman, Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., “And they’re potentially facing increased demand for troops in Afghanistan.”
The United States invaded Iraq in 2003 – about 18 months after forces were sent to Afghanistan to root out al-Qaida. Iraq was the Pentagon’s focal point for most of the Bush administration, leaving the public view of Afghanistan largely in the dark.