Baghdad: Iraq's government welcomed on Tuesday long-awaited testimony to Congress by the US commander in Iraq and said it would have less need for foreign forces to carry out combat operations "in the near future".
General David Petraeus recommended cutting US troops by about 30,000 by next July, ending a so-called surge of forces but not fundamentally changing strategy in the unpopular war.
"The Iraqi government welcomes this report," national security adviser Mowaffaq Al Rubaie told a news conference.
"We expect in the near future that our need will be diminished for the multinational forces to conduct direct combat operations." Rubaie did not comment directly on Petraeus' recommendation to cut US troop levels by 30,000.
In testimony to Congress in Washington on Monday, Petraeus suggested US forces could fall to about 130,000 without hurting modest security improvements. That would return US troop strength to roughly the same level it was before an increase ordered by President George W. Bush early this year.
Force reductions would continue after next summer, Petraeus said, and it would be premature to make recommendations now on the pace of such cuts.
Such an assessment could be made by March 2008, he said.
Rubaie said all Iraqi army units would be trained and equipped by mid-2008. More than 80 per cent of Iraq's army had the capability to take the lead in combat operations, he said.
"We have 500,000 soldiers and policemen, who have been given the best military training," Rubaie said.
"The Iraqi government's aim is to achieve a complete Iraqi security reliance as soon as possible. (But) we know that for some time we will continue to need the support of the coalition forces to assure regional security and stability."