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Senior US Military Leader Assesses Chances for Iraq's Stability


A top U.S. military official gives a positive assessment of the chance for stability in Iraq. Victoria Cavaliere reports from VOA's New York bureau that General Robert Holmes also believes that remaining steadfast in the fight against insurgents is the only way to beat them.

U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Robert Holmes is one of two deputy directors of command at Central Command, CENTCOM, which oversees U.S. military operations in East Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East, including Iraq.

Speaking in New York Thursday, General Holmes says he thinks a recent surge of U.S. troops in Baghdad will eventually help end daily bloodshed and lead to future stability. "Let me sort of clear the record here. I say that we see success with the Baghdad security plan. We still see some spikes in violence, we don't ignore the violence and we don't say that it's going away," he said.

To defeat the insurgency in Iraq, Holmes says the physical presence of U.S. troops and a growing Iraqi police force is necessary in violence-prone neighborhoods.

In Washington, there are growing calls for a military pull-out from Iraq. Leaders of the Democratically controlled Congress have dropped a timetable for withdrawal from a new bill funding the war, after President Bush vowed to continue vetoing the measure. Some Democrats have also asked the Defense Department to begin drafting an exit plan.

Holmes says the political debate over Iraq does not affect troop morale. But he says getting U.S. troops out of Iraq is only one part of the equation in the Middle East.

"I think we need to go beyond Iraq, and saying it's not about getting out of Iraq, it's about what we do in this region of the Middle East. Twenty-seven states, we don't pull out of a region. We're there, we're partnered. The moderate states in the region understand the importance of a successful Iraq," he said.

Earlier this month, diplomats from more than 60 countries, including the United States, Iraq, and Syria gathered in Egypt for a conference on Iraq's security. During the conference, the deputy chief of the 22-member Arab League said a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. and foreign troops in Iraq would be a first step in achieving security and stability in the region.

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