Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said he doesn’t expect the Iraqi government to ask U.S. troops to remain beyond the 2011 deadline. “I think that the Iraq leadership is focused on that this ends in 2011,” Odierno told the Associated Press. If security allows, the number of U.S. troops to be withdrawn this year will increase 3,500 (one brigade) over the number of 12,000 previously announced, the general said.

President Obama’s withdrawal plan calls for most troops to come home by September 2010, but some 50,000 security troops would remain. Those troops are required to leave by the end of 2011 under an agreement negotiated between the Iraqi government and the Bush administration.

Odierno said he did not expect that deadline to be renegotiated, but added ominously, “I never say never.”

AP via Google:

The general said he has not discussed the possibility of extending the U.S. military’s stay — to fight insurgents and train national security forces — with Iraq officials. And it may be too early to predict whether that will happen, Odierno said.

Still, “the progress we’re making now and what I see today, I say that I don’t see anything that would have us have to re-negotiate in 2011,” Odierno said.

“But again, I never say never,” he added.

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