Speaking to business leaders in Chicago, Illinois Wednesday, Chairman of the U.S.Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen says recent violence in Iraq won't change the mission of U.S. troops there. The top U.S. military leader also discussed how Al Qaida and its supporters are trying to re-ignite the security problem in Iraq.
Just hours after a series of coordinated attacks against Iraqi security forces left over fifty people dead and scores injured on Wednesday, Admiral Mike Mullen told reporters in Chicago he believed Al Qaida was behind the violence. "There have been very serious attacks in Iraq since last summer, roughly since last July a little over a year ago, and this is an effort on the part Al Queda - in particular in Iraq - to re-ignite the sectarian violence, and it just hasn't happened," he said.
The attacks coincide with a drawdown in U.S. forces in the country. For the first time since the 2003 U.S. led invasion, there are less than fifty thousand U.S. forces in Iraq. Mullen says the drawdown is, in part, a credit to the Iraqi Security Forces.
"They're not prefect, they've got some challenges in the future there's no doubt about that. But they have led in operations for a significant period of time, and they will continue to do that, and we are confident that they will meet the threat," he said.
Mullen's speech to business leaders in Chicago on Wednesday marked his first public appearance since the last combat unit left Iraq in mid-August. He emphasized that the remaining U.S. presence in the country still represents a substantial force. "It wasn't that long ago there was 170,000 troops in Iraq, so that speaks to the magnitude of the change there. That said, 50,000 troops - and the combat mission ends the 31st of August, 50,000 troops is still a lot of troops," he said.
Mullen says those remaining U.S. troops will continue to support the Iraqi Security Forces, and that recent violence will not change the mission or size of the U.S. military presence in Iraq.