Top Officer: Iraqi Forces Ready in 12-18 Months

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Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, says Iraqi forces should be able to take control of security in Iraq in the next 12 to 18 months. Casey also says the United States should continue to focus on drawing down the number of American forces in the country.

In Iraq, the U.S. military has announced the deaths of two more Marines, a sailor and a soldier, raising the number of personnel killed in October to 91. That's the highest death toll for any month this year.

Also Tuesday, U.S. officials said the Iraqi government has agreed to a timetable addressing the critical issues facing the country, including the Sunni insurgency and the proliferation of sectarian militias.

A joint press conference with U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Gen. Casey is not a usual occurrence. They broke no new ground, but just two weeks before the U.S. midterm elections, they tried to put a positive cast on what most here consider to a deteriorating situation.

"Despite challenges, success is possible," Khalilzad said, "and can be accomplished with a realistic timetable." He said the Iraqi government had newly agreed to develop a timeline for progress on key security and political problems by the end of the year.

"The Iraqi government has said nothing about a new timetable. The plan resembles one announced by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki when he took over months ago.

As Khalilzad and Casey made their announcements, a power failure in Baghdad's Green Zone cut of the broadcast of their remarks — a generator failure. Three years after U.S. troops arrived, most of Iraq has little more than 6 hours of power a day.

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