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US Commander Says Iraqi Forces Should Take Control of Security in 12-18 Months


The top U.S. general in Iraq says Iraqi government forces should be able to take full control of security in the country within the next 12 to 18 months.

General George Casey told a Baghdad news conference Tuesday that the United States will continue to focus on reducing the number of its troops in Iraq. However, he said he will ask for more troops if he thinks it is necessary.

Also at the news conference, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad said Iraqi leaders have agreed that by the end of the year they will develop a timeline on meeting key goals such as improving security and the economy. Khalilzad said Iraqi leaders "must step up" their efforts to reach the goals.

Both officials again criticized Iran and Syria for allegedly supporting insurgents in Iraq.

In other developments, the U.S. military said its forces accidentally killed four Iraqi firefighters in Fallujah.

A statement said the military mistook the firetruck for one that had been hijacked. The military said the actual hijacked truck was later located, but its occupants had fled.

Also today, the U.S. military said three more American service members have died in combat. The latest deaths raise the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq this month to 90 - the highest toll this year.

U.S. forces continue house-to-house searches in Baghdad for an American soldier who has been missing since Monday.

U.S. officials say the soldier is an American of Iraqi descent who worked as a translator. Officials have not said whether the soldier was abducted, attacked, or left duty on his own.