The commander of US forces in Iraq doesn't foresee the need for US to resume combat missions in Iraq but isn't entirely ruling it out either.
"We have several different contingency plans for support, but it would have to be something that would change the strategic dynamic here for us to move back to combat operations," Gen. Ray Odierno told CNN's Candy Crowley Sunday.
"Can you define that for me?" asked Crowley. "What is a strategic dynamic that could change?"
"Well, if, for example, you had a complete failure of the security forces. If you had some political divisions within the political forces that caused them to fracture," Odierno replied.
"But we don't see that happening," he added. "They have been doing so well for so long now that we really believe that we are beyond that point."
U.S. 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 U.S. involved beyond 2011 to help Iraqis acquire the required equipment, training and technical capabilities.
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 next year.
If the Iraqis asked that American troops remain in the country after 2011, Odierno said U.S. officials would consider it, but that would be a policy decision made by the president and his national security advisers.
"We still have a little bit of terrorism that operates here but it has to do with political development," he said.
"It has to do with the government now starting to move forward, move forward economically, politically, diplomatically. Integrate itself back into the region. We are seeing movement towards that but that is the most important thing now. Political, economic development."
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