x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Army chief: Troops could be in Iraq after 2012

The United States could have fighting forces in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade, the top Army officer said.

WASHINGTON // The United States could have fighting forces in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade, the top Army officer said, even though a signed agreement requires all US forces to be out of Iraq by 2012. Gen George Casey, Army chief of staff, said on Tuesday his planning envisions combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade as part of a sustained US commitment to fighting extremism and terrorism in the Middle East. "Global trends are pushing in the wrong direction," Gen Casey said. "They fundamentally will change how the Army works." He spoke at an invitation-only briefing to a dozen journalists and policy analysts from Washington-based think-tanks. Gen Casey's calculations about force levels are related to his attempt to ease the brutal deployment calendar that he said would "bring the Army to its knees." Gen Casey would not specify how combat units would be divided between Iraq and Afghanistan. He said US ground commander Gen Ray Odierno is leading a study to determine how far US forces could be cut back in Iraq and still be effective. Gen Casey said his comments about the long war in Iraq were not meant to conflict with Obama administration policies. The US president Barack Obama plans to bring US combat forces home from Iraq in 2010, and the United States and Iraq have agreed that all US forces would leave by 2012. Although several senior US officials have suggested Iraq could request an extension, the legal agreement the two countries signed last year would have to be amended for any significant US presence to remain.

Meanwhile, roadside bomb blasted a US convoy west of Baghdad, killing three Americans, including a top reconstruction official who once headed the Illinois Commerce Commission, US authorities said. The attack occurred on Monday on the eastern outskirts of Fallujah, which used to be the main stronghold of Sunni insurgents until US troops overran the city in Nov 2004 in the bitterest urban fighting of the Iraq war. Since then, Fallujah, 70 km west of Baghdad in the Anbar province, has been among the most heavily guarded cities in Iraq.