WASHINGTON (CNN) – The top U.S. military commander on the ground in Iraq said Sunday that conditions in the war-torn country have improved in the last year or so.
“They’ve improved significantly,” Gen. Ray Odierno told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King on State of the Union. “Obviously, we still have some very serious incidents . . . but, again, it’s much safer.”
Odierno also said Sunday that the number of combat fatalities in March was the lowest number suffered by U.S. troops since the beginning of the Iraq war. “So, there’s been a clear improvement of security here,” Odierno added.
“The issue is: can we maintain that? Can the Iraqis maintain it? And that’s what we’re working through now. We want them to be able to maintain this stability as we pull out.”
Odierno told King that he believed the U.S. military was on track to meet its schedule to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq over the next 18 months, adding though that he had the flexibility to re-assess that schedule.
The general also cautioned that there were still threats in Iraq. “There are some cells out there who are still capable of conducting suicide attacks,” Odierno said when asked about a recent uptick in violence and U.S. fatalities.
Odierno also said the U.S. military had made it more difficult for foreign fighters to get into Iraq through Syria, but there was still support for the Iraqi insurgency coming from Iran.