The top US commander in Iraq admitted Sunday that a "complete failure" of Iraqi security forces could force the United States to resume combat operations there, but he called this an unlikely scenario. On August 31 combat operations officially end and the role of the remaining 50,000 American soldiers switches to provide advice and assistance.
General Ray Odierno told CNN's "State of the Union" that the ability of the Iraqi police and army to keep a lid on the violence was improving, but refused to rule out a return to US combat missions if things went sour. "My assessment today is they will be (ready)," he told CNN, speaking from Baghdad. "I think that they continue to grow. We continue to see development in planning, and in their ability to conduct operations.
"The Iraqi people are resilient. They want this. They want to have a democratic country. They want to be on their own. They want to be moving forward and be a contributor to stability in the Middle East."
Despite the advances in building up Iraq's security apparatus, Odierno conceded there were scenarios where the American military might have to step back in and resume combat operations. "If, for example, you had a complete failure of the (Iraqi) security forces. If you had some political divisions within the political forces that caused them to fracture, but we don't see that happening," he said.
"They have been doing so well for so long now that we really believe that we are beyond that point."