A report to Congress by Gen. David Petraeus that called for reducing the number of American troops in Iraq and saying they were needed as Iraqis were trained to take over responsibility for the nation's security themselves, was welcomed by Iraq’s government.
Petraeus on Monday said he has recommended that in December an Army brigade - numbering 3,500 to 4,000 soldiers - be withdrawn, and that between December and next July four additional Army brigades plus two Marine battalions leave Iraq without being replaced.
That would still leave a U.S. force of approximately 130,000 - about the same number that were in Iraq before U.S. President George W. Bush announced his troop buildup in January.
National Security Adviser Mouwaffak al-Rubaie, reading a government statement, said Petraeus' report showed a "transparency in evaluating the situation" and that the U.S.-led coalition is "enabling us to be successful."
"We have made historic progress toward democracy, and we still have enormous obstacles and challenges that can deny our victory and plant us in the darkness of the past..." al-Rubaie said. "Let the world know that the Iraqi people and leaders will not yield to the easy temptation of dictatorial practices."
Al-Rubaie thanked the U.S. and its coalition partners for having "opened the way to achieve victory and security for Iraqis," saying there are currently some 500,000 "highly trained" Iraqi soldiers and police officers who are fighting insurgents.
"We expect that in the near future our need for coalition forces to carry out direct operations will decrease," he said. "The aim of the Iraqi government is to achieve self reliance in security as soon as possible but we still need the support of coalition forces to reach this point."
Al-Rubaie said much progress has been made by the Iraqi government concerning national reconciliation, the economy and in bringing security to the country.
"Three years ago, none of the Iraqi provinces were under Iraqi control but today, seven of Iraq's 18 provinces are secure," he said. "The aim of the Iraqi government is to take over security in all provinces as soon as our forces are ready after being armed and trained."
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