WASHINGTON (CNN) - The senior U.S. commander in Iraq Tuesday rejected a memo by a subordinate who argued for U.S. troops to withdrawal earlier than planned, the commander's spokeswoman said.
Gen. Raymond Odierno is the first senior U.S. military or civilian official to address the "Reese memo" since it went public last month, according to his spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Josslyn Aberle.
The memo said the withdrawal of U.S. troops should be accelerated because Iraqi forces will not get any better and are good enough to protect the government against attacks.
Aberle confirmed comments Odierno made in an interview with The Associated Press in Iraq on Tuesday.
"Our goal here given to us by the president is a secure, stable, sovereign, self-reliant Iraq. We're not there yet," Odierno told the AP.
Although Odierno thinks there are still problems with the Iraqi security forces, he believes the handover of the streets to Iraqi troops at the end of June is going well, Aberle said.
Army Col. Timothy Reese, a U.S. military advisor to Iraqi forces in Baghdad, submitted his memo to Odierno's command and it was leaked out.
In it he said the process of training Iraqi troops has reached a saturation point and, although he listed a host of problems, he said they are
good enough to protect the Iraqi government.
He proposed that the United States complete its pullout as of August 2010. Under the Obama administration's timetable, by that date U.S. troops in Iraq will be down to a stability force of between 35,000 to 50,000.
Reese's exit date would be 16 months before the president's mandate of all troops being out by the end of 2011.
Odierno said there is more work to be done in Iraq.
"We want to continue to build the institutional capacity of Iraq to move it towards a stable country and we want to make them a long-term partner that would help us to, in my mind, help overall with the security situation in the Middle East," he told the AP.
Odierno said the United States has to make sure that the national parliamentary elections scheduled for January are seen as legitimate and
He has also warned the security gains are fragile and the top threat to the stability in Iraq is the tension between Iraqis and Kurds in the north.
Last week, Odierno told reporters in Baghdad he had urged Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to work with the Kurdish Regional Government to work out differences in oil revenue sharing and to settle border disputes, two major sticking points between the two groups.