Page last updated at 19:40 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 20:40 UK

US Iraq withdrawal 'accelerating'

Gen Ray Odierno, 30 Sept 2009
Gen Odierno said it was important for the US not to forget about Iraq

The top US military commander in Iraq has said that the withdrawal of US forces is going faster than expected - freeing up resources for Afghanistan.

Gen Ray Odierno said 4,000 more US troops would be withdrawn by the end of October, leaving 120,000 in Iraq.

Testifying at a congressional hearing, Gen Odierno said the US was on track to meet a deadline for pulling out all US combat troops from Iraq by August 2010.

He urged Congress not to lose sight of Iraq, as efforts focus on Afghanistan.

Gen Odierno told the House Armed Services Committee that the pull-out of 4,000 additional troops by mid-October was "a bit faster than we originally planned".

Security improvements in Anbar province meant that only one US brigade was needed there rather than two, he said.

Iraqi elections due in January would be the real test of security, he said, but overall Iraqi troops were operating effectively backed by US forces.

"Iraqi security forces are now in the lead across the entire country," he added.

Gen Odierno said that military equipment no longer required in Iraq was being freed up to be sent to Afghanistan.

"I worked very closely with Gen Petraeus to identify any capabilities that we no longer need that can be used in Afghanistan," he said.

Gen Odierno's testimony comes as President Barack Obama meets senior military officers and administration officials to discuss US strategy in Afghanistan.

At the weekend, the top US commander in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal, submitted a report requesting more troops and warning of failure should he be denied additional manpower.

Up to 50,000 US troops are expected to remain in Iraq until the end of 2011 to help train and equip Iraqi forces.

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