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Top US Generals Urge Public Support for Iraq Policy


The Bush administration, seeking support for its Iraq policies, is speaking out on national television. Two top generals made the case for staying the course in Iraq during a series of interviews Sunday on network news programs.

General George Casey, the U.S. military commander in Iraq, admits he is concerned that polls show public support for his mission is slipping.

"It is important for the American people to understand that we should not be afraid of this fight," said General Casey. "This is a tough fight. Their armed forces members are committed to this. The Iraqis are committed to this."

Appearing on CNN's Late Edition, General Casey said the case for continued American involvement in Iraq is strong.

"This is 25-million-plus Iraqis who suffered under the regime of Saddam Hussein for three and a half decades, wanting something better," he said. "And a relatively small portion, less than one-tenth of one-percent is the number I have used, of Iraqis, and foreign fighters are trying to deny them that future. This is worth it."

General Casey was interviewed in Washington where he has been briefing White House officials and Congress on the status of military operations in Iraq. At one hearing he indicated that the number of Iraqi battalions capable of operating independently of U.S. forces has dropped from three to one. When asked about the matter during his Sunday interviews, he downplayed the problem.

General Casey told ABC's This Week program that these so-called level one forces are the highest trained units, ready to go into the field with no outside help. He said the focus now is on level-two forces, Iraqi troops that can lead operations with U.S. support. He said their numbers are growing.

"A year from now, if there are not more battalions at level one I will be concerned. Right now, I am not. I am concerned about level two and we are making very good progress there," noted General Casey.

General Casey's boss, Central Command chief General John Abizaid also took part in the round of network interviews. He told NBC's Meet the Press that he is optimistic that in time Iraqi forces will take over responsibility for the country's security needs and American troops will be able to come home.

Under questioning, he said the insurgency remains a big problem, but suggested that it will die out as political progress is made.

"I will tell you that the insurgency, as long as politics continues to move in the direction that it appears to be moving and the Iraqi security forces continue to move in the direction they are moving, the insurgency does not have a chance for victory," commented General Abizaid.

President Bush will also be speaking out about the situation in Iraq this week. The White House says he will make a major speech on Iraq and the war on terrorism on Thursday in Washington.

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