Nov. 21 - As U.S. troops wind down their mission in Iraq, an American general says they leave behind a legacy of opportunities for the Iraqi people. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
Camp Virginia in Kuwait. This is one of the last stops for U.S. troops in Iraq as they prepare to head home. There are now less than 20,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, with all forces expected to pull out by the end of the year, nearly nine years after the invasion that toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein. Violence has fallen sharply since the height of Iraq's sectarian slaughter four years ago. Nevertheless Sunni insurgents associated with al Qaeda and Shi'ite militias linked to Iran still carry out lethal attacks, bombings and assassinations. But the number of attacks has dropped to less than 14 per day from an average of 145 per day. U.S. officials say they are confident Iraq can handle it's own security but there is still work to be done. Major General Jeffrey Buchanan in Baghdad was made available to Reuters by the Pentagon. Major General Jeffrey Buchanan, saying (English): "Serving here for a number of years and working with Iraqi security forces, I am optimistic about the future. Right now, I think that the Iraqi people and Iraqi security forces have a tremendous set of opportunities for them. We have seen them make progress in their ability to have a country that is stable, that is sovereign and that is self reliant. But frankly they are not where they need to be yet." As the U.S. wraps up its mission, Buchanan says Americans leave behind opportunities,. Major General Jeffrey Buchanan, saying (English): "All of these sacrifices have led to a situation where the Iraqi people have opportunities that they never had in the past. Opportunities to elect their own form of government, to choose their own form of government, to develop economically and to use that economy for the betterment of all the people rather than just a corrupt political party -- an opportunity to build security forces that supports and protects all of the people rather than just a dictator. And so I think that the Iraqi people recognize these opportunities, my greatest hope is that they take advantage of the opportunities that they now have." Talks between Washington and Baghdad about keeping a small contingent of U.S. soldiers in Iraq as trainers fell apart in October after Iraqi leaders to refused to grant legal immunity to U.S. troops. Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters.