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U.S. Iraq Commander Says 2008 Withdrawal Possible

Chiarelli in Baghdad in May (RFE/RL) December 8, 2006 -- One of the top U.S. commanders in Iraq says most U.S. combat forces could be withdrawn from Iraq by early 2008, if Iraqis move toward reconciliation.

Speaking from Baghdad, Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli told reporters he believed his forces were winning militarily. But he said progress on the political and reconstruction fronts had not been fast enough.

"This situation cannot be resolved by military forces alone," Chiarelli said. "And I know that is uncomfortable for a lot of people, both in and out of uniform, who were raised on the concepts of destroying a certain portion of the enemy's forces and declaring victory. This conflict will take all efforts, in governments, economic development, and transition, working together."

Chiarelli's comments are the first by a senior commander in Iraq since the release of the Iraq Study Group report earlier this week.

That bipartisan panel called for a more rapid military transition to Iraqi control and a withdrawal of most U.S. combat forces by the first quarter of 2008.

(AFP, Reuters)

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