Petraeus Talks about Challenges in Iraq


Today, 150 soldiers from the Fourth Stryker Brigadewere welcomed home to Washington State. Last night, other members of the Fourth crossed into Kuwait - the last full combat brigade to leave.

For now, there are still 6,000 American combat troops in Iraq. But they'll leave by the end of the month. The U.S. will maintain a presence of 50,000 non-combat troops - to train Iraqi forces.

General David Petraeus was once the top U.S. Commander in Iraq; now he's the top commander in Afghanistan. CBS Evening News Anchor Katie Couric asked him about the changing mission there.

Special Section: Afghanistan | The Road Ahead

"Having been in Iraq with you,I have to ask you now that the combat troops are leaving Iraq, is this the right time?" Couric asked.

"I mean you have an uptick in violence - 61 recruits were killed - lots wounded. There's no clearly formed government. The head of Iraqi military says it won't be until 2020 until they can really provide security for the country. Is this a success?"

"Well, first of all we are not leaving," Gen. Petraeus replied. "There are 50,000 U.S. troops that are remaining in Iraq albeit in a support role rather than a leading combat role. But that's an enormous capability."

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"The real bottom line in Iraq I think is that despite all of its challenges, it is a much, much more hopeful place than in January/February 2007 when the surge was launched and when there were fifty dead bodies in Baghdad every 24 hours. There's going to be violence in Iraq. There's still al Qaeda in Iraq, there are other extremist elements, there are residual militia elements. But the 700,000 Iraqi security forces on the ground there generally can deal with this with some assistance from the United States.

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