U.S. military official loosens tone on withdrawal deadline for Iraq

April 15, 2009 10:31 am 

WASHINGTON, April 15 — The U.S. troops may remain in a Iraq city with instable security situation after June 30, 2010 if they are requested by the Iraqi government, said a U.S. military official on Tuesday.

During a videoconference at the Pentagon, Army Col. Gary Volesky, who commands U.S. troops in northern Iraq's Ninevah Province, told reporters that American troops may stay in the violence-plagued city of Mosul after June 30, the deadline President Barack Obama has set for U.S. combat troops to withdraw from Iraq.

However, he noted that it would happen only if asked by the Iraqi government.

"We are conducting an assessment right now with our Iraqi counterparts to determine what the way ahead is for the security in Mosul," Volesky said. "If the Iraqi government believes we should stay in Mosul to continue the security progress, we'll support our Iraqi counterparts past June 30."

The commander made the remarks after five U.S. soldiers and three others from the Iraqi security force were killed on Friday in a suicide bombing at a police compound in Mosul, Iraq's third largest city with a mixed population of Kurds, Sunnis and Christians.

Since the Iraq war broke out in 2003, the city has remained a hotbed of insurgent violence despite improved security situation elsewhere in Iraq.

Volesky said that he believes Iraq's security forces were making sufficient progress to eventually take over fully from the U.S. forces, and allow the Americans to leave by the end of 2011 as a U.S.-Iraq agreement states. (PNA/Xinhua) ALM/ebp

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