(CNN) – Less than two weeks before the scheduled end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq, the top U.S. military commander in the country tells CNN that the United States could have a presence there well after 2011 - when all U.S. troops are set to leave Iraq.
Asked about a comment by an Iraqi military official who said American troops “’must stay until the Iraqi army is fully ready in 2020,”’ Gen. Ray Odierno says he could imagine a scenario where “we could be there beyond 2011.”
“Can you foresee a scenario like that, that there would be some U.S. military presence, albeit much smaller, at 2020?,” CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley asks Odierno in an interview set to air Sunday on “State of the Union.”
“I think it depends on what kind of presence you're talking about,” Odierno says. “If the government of Iraq requests some technical assistance in fielding, systems that allow them to continue to protect themselves, some external threats. We could be here.
“I mean, you know, we have agreements like that in Saudi Arabia. We have agreements like that in Egypt. That continues to help them to develop their infrastructure and security architecture. And if that's what we're talking about, potentially, we could be there beyond 2011.”
Related: U.S. troop strength put at 52,000
In the interview, Odierno also says he thinks Iraqi security forces are on track to be ready for the planned withdrawal of all U.S. forces next year.
(CNN) – The top U.S. military commander in Iraq says the Middle Eastern country is on its way to being ready for next year's planned withdrawal of remaining U.S. troops, but Gen. Ray Odierno is also sounding a cautionary note about the intentions of one of its key neighbors.
In an interview set to air Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," Odierno gives his assessment of the readiness of Iraqi security forces and of the Iraqi people overall.
"My assessment today is … they will be [ready for next year's withdrawal]," Odierno says in the interview. "I think that they continue to grow. We continue to see development in planning, in their ability to conduct operations. We continue to see political development, economic development and all of these combined together will start to create an atmosphere that creates better security.
"And the Iraqi people are resilient. They want this. They want to have a democratic country. They want to be on their own. They want to move forward and be a contributor to stability in the Middle East."
In the same sit-down, Odierno says that neighboring Iran may not want Iraq to move in that direction.
"[W]e cannot allow the corporate takeover of our democracy," Obama says in the address. "So we’re going to continue to fight for reform and transparency. And I urge all of you to take up the same fight. Let’s challenge every elected official who benefits from these ads to defend this practice or join us in stopping it."
(Read Obama's full remarks after the jump)
Editor's Note: In the final 100 days before Election Day, CNN has been profiling one race at random each day from among the nation's top 100 House races, which we've dubbed "The CNN 100." Read the full list here. Today's featured district is:
Connecticut 5th: Rep. Chris Murphy (D) is seeking a third term
Primary: August 10, 2010
Location: Northwestern Connecticut
Days until Election Day: 73
(CNN) - When Democrat Chris Murphy left the state Senate to pursue a job on Capitol Hill, Republican Sam Caligiuri took over Murphy’s old job. Four years later, Caligiuri is hoping to follow in Murphy’s footsteps again, but this time, he’s not waiting for Murphy to step aside.
Editor's note: Watch "John King, USA" Friday at 7 p.m. ET for a fact check of Chief National Correspondent John King's interview with Franklin Graham.
Washington (CNN) – The White House pushed back Friday against comments made by Rev. Franklin Graham, one day after the evangelical leader said that President Obama was born a Muslim because of his father's religious beliefs.
Graham, son of famed presidential religious adviser Billy Graham, said Thursday on "CNN's John King, USA," that while he believes Obama is now a Christian, the president was born a Muslim because the "seed of Islam" is passed through the father.
On Friday, White House spokesman Bill Burton said that while Graham is entitled to his own opinion, the president is Christian.
"[T]he president is a committed Christian," Burton told reporters. "I think that the American people know that, and Franklin Graham is certainly entitled to his opinion."
A poll released Thursday, conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, found that nearly one in five Americans believe Obama is a Muslim, up from around one in 10 Americans who last year said they believed he was Muslim.
It's a statistic that has forced the White House to defend the president's faith, a significant distraction from the administration's political and policy goals.
(CNN) – At nearly 74 years old, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, might not be the first person to come to mind when you're asked to name a social media "genius." But according to a new joint study, he is just that–the U.S. senator most adept at using social media.
New York University professor Scott Galloway and George Washington University School of Business dean Doug Guthrie ranked all 100 U.S. senators based on what they call the lawmakers' "digital IQ." The score is derived from a combination of metrics culled from each senator's activity on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, political blogs and their own congressional website.
Republican Sens. Jim DeMint and Scott Brown took a close second and third behind McCain, with Sen. Al Franken–the Senate's most social media-savvy Democrat–coming in at number four.
(CNN) - The Democratic National Committee is out Friday with a new television ad that looks forward to the November elections and closes with a cameo from former President George W. Bush.
Entitled "Big Choices," the ad frames the midterm elections as a choice between the policies of President Obama and national Democrats and the policies of Bush and the GOP. It captures a view of idealistic Americana –rolling fields of wheat, windmills, a teacher in a classroom, a welder in a factory–before Bush makes a surprise appearance with a verbal gaffe.
"You fool me, you can't get fooled again," Obama's Oval Office predecessor says in footage used in the ad.
The new 30-second spot is running on national cable stations.
Washington (CNN) – For years, the Democratic Party's pledge to overhaul the nation's health care system was a main political talking point, a promise that was fulfilled earlier this year.
But the legislative win in March has not translated into political capital for Democrats as a majority of Americans, 56 percent, oppose the health care bill, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll released Friday morning.
And while Democratic strategists are counseling their candidates to talk about issues other than health care on the campaign trail, Republicans have been sharpening their focus on that very subject.
State: Missouri 4th – Rep. Ike Skelton (D) is seeking an 18th term.
Date of primary: August 3, 2010
Location: West central Missouri
Days until Election Day: 74
Democratic Rep. Ike Skelton, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is seeking his 18th term in office. The 78-year-old congressman has held the seat for decades despite national trends, but can he win in a year when anti-incumbency fervor is high and a president he has supported is increasingly unpopular?
(CNN) - President Barack Obama and his family begin a week-long vacation in Martha's Vineyard on Friday - the president's second time on the island off the coast of Massachusetts.
Related video: No vacation from crisis
In 2009, Obama spent time there golfing and hanging out with family and friends.
"It's a beautiful part of the country. It has really nice beaches and the folks are really great," Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton told reporters Thursday. "The food is terrific. And it's some place that the president went before he was president and likes to go back because it's a comfortable place where he can rest and recharge the batteries a little bit."
Some have questioned why the Obamas have chosen to go to an elite holiday spot in Massachusetts instead of the Gulf Coast, as Obama had encouraged Americans to help bolster tourism there. The first family - minus eldest daughter Malia - did visit Panama City, Florida, August 14-15, however. There, the Obamas swam in the Gulf of Mexico and played miniature golf, and the president met with business leaders about the BP oil spill and its effect on the region.
Related: Criticism likely to follow Obama on vacation
Burton said this vacation, which will last 10 days, will also include some work.
Updated: 9:18 a.m.