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General Says U.S. Ready To Resume Iraq Combat Role If Needed

U.S. soldiers listen to a briefing on August 19 before their unit leaves Iraq.
The top U.S. military commander in Iraq says local security forces will be ready for the withdrawal of American troops next year, but the United States could return to combat operations if needed.

In an interview aired on CNN today, General Ray Odierno said U.S. troops could move back to a combat role if there was "a complete failure of the security forces" or if political divisions split the Iraqi security forces.

His comments came days after the last U.S. combat brigade left Iraq, more than seven years after the U.S.-led invasion. About 50,000 U.S. troops are to remain in the country until the end of 2011 to serve as a training and assistance force.

Odierno said U.S. involvement in Iraq beyond the end of 2011 probably would involve assisting the Iraqis secure their airspace and borders.

On Iran, the U.S. general said Tehran was funding extremist groups in Iraq out of fear of a strong democracy as a neighbor.

compiled from agency reports