WASHINGTON, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- Top U.S. commander in Iraq Ray Odierno said on Sunday that the United States could have a military presence in Iraq well after 2011 when all U.S. troops are set to leave.
Less than two weeks before the scheduled end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq, Odierno told CNN's Candy Crowley on Sunday talk show "State of the Union" that he could imagine a scenario where "we could be there beyond 2011."
Asked where he could foresee a scenario that there would be some U.S. military presence after the 2011 deadline in Iraq, Odierno replied, "If the government of Iraq requests some technical assistance in fielding, systems that allow them to continue to protect themselves, some external threats. We could be here."
"We have agreements like that in Saudi Arabia. We have agreements like that in Egypt. That continues to help them to develop their infrastructure and security architecture. And if that's what we're talking about, potentially, we could be there beyond 2011," said Odierno.
During the same interview, Odierno said he thought Iraqi security forces were on track to be ready for the planned withdrawal of all U.S. forces next year.
"My assessment today is they will be" ready for next year's withdrawal, he said
Earlier this week, the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 2nd Infantry Division left Iraq in a move that many saw as symbolizing the end of U.S. combat operations in that country. The formal change in mission is set for Sept. 1.
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