WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- Top U.S. commander Ray Odierno in Iraq said Sunday Iraqi security forces are ready to assume control of the country's security responsibilities, as U.S. forces handed over all combat duties to Iraqis this weekend.
Talking to ABC's This Week, Odierno said U.S. officials "do believe (the Iraqi military is) ready to assume full operations in Iraq," and the Iraqis' assumption of responsibility for the security of Iraq was not sudden.
"For the last 20 months, we've been slowly and deliberately handing over more and more responsibility to them, and they have stepped up," Odierno said via satellite from Baghdad.
The United States is scheduled to withdraw all its combat troops from Iraq by the end of this month. When President Barack Obama took office in January 2009, there were 144,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. At his Camp Lejeune speech on Feb. 27, 2009, Obama announced the drawdown of U.S. troops level in Iraq to 50,000 by the end of August.
As U.S. forces pull out of Iraq, security situation in that country began to deteriorate. Bomb attacks spiked in Iraq. Iraqi government figures showed July was the deadliest month for Iraqis in more than two years. Moreover, Iraqi sides have been unable to form a government several months after the May 7 parliamentary elections, raising questions of stability and security after U.S. troops pull out.
Odierno said the security situation in Iraq has improved "since the dark days of 2006 and 2007." He said the attacks are designed to "stop the political way forward."
Odierno said the drawdown in Iraq is not linked to the Iraqi governmental formation process, but he thinks "we'll see some first steps towards forming a government by Sept. 1," referring to the deadline by which U.S. forces will supposedly end combat operations in the country.
"We continue to help them and that will continue after (the first of) September," he said.
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