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US Military Commander says Iraq Taking Lead on Security

It has been a month since U.S. military forces withdrew from Iraqi cities, handing over security responsibilities to their Iraqi counterparts. Since then, U.S. military commanders in Iraq say American troops have worked to support Iraqi forces by providing training and intelligence information.

Much has changed in Iraq in the last two years. Despite a series of recent attacks, violence has dropped sharply.

Army Major General Richard Nash commands U.S. forces in Iraq's nine southern provinces. He told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday that Iraqi forces have been taking the lead on urban security.

"As I drive around here in the evenings going to meetings, I see them at checkpoints doing a very professional job," he said.

Nash says U.S. forces are extremely mindful of the importance of abiding by the security agreement that required U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraqi cities by July.

He says American forces often are escorted by an Iraqi convoy, even when traveling to a training site.

"The local population in and around the cities will see that U.S. forces are in compliance and that we are working with Iraqi forces like we said we were going to," he said.

The major general says some Iraqi leaders are still cautious about the U.S. troop presence in their country. But Nash says that as time goes by, American forces will be able to increase training opportunities and support for Iraqi soldiers.

Nash says this training will be especially important because Iraqi forces will handle security during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins in a few weeks, and parliamentary elections slated for January.