America's top general in Iraq is sounding optimistic about having that country's security forces pretty much take over within the next 12 to 18 months. But he cautions that doesn't mean any US troops would be leaving.
General George Casey says he believes the Iraqi forces are making progress toward a point where they can shoulder security responsibilities with what he calls "very little coalition support."
That's part of the Pentagon's overall exit strategy from Iraq, which would have coalition forces move to larger bases while Iraqis handle security in specific regions.
Casey sees it as a "three-step process" that started with training and equipping the Iraqi security forces. The second step is placing them in the lead with U-S support, which Casey believes is "almost 75 percent complete."
The final step will be getting the Iraqis to independently provide their own security.