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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iraqi Official Asks U.S. Not to Pull Troops Out

UNITED NATIONS -- Iraq is concerned that the United States may pull out its troops before the Iraqi army and police are ready to take responsibility for the country's security, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said.

Zebari heads to Washington for meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, and his wide-ranging agenda includes "the continued engagement" of the United States in Iraq.

The Iraqi minister came to New York Tuesday to urge the UN Security Council to extend the mandate of the U.S.-led multinational force, saying Iraqi troops cannot yet defend the country against an armed insurgency by remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime.

The council responded positively, issuing a statement Tuesday extending the mandate and saying it looks forward to Iraqi forces playing a greater role and ultimately assuming responsibility for the country's national security.

Even though Zebari repeated numerous times in his speech to the council that Iraq still could not survive on its own and needs help, he said Iraq was not certain Washington would stay engaged.

"I am concerned -- I am concerned," Zebari said in an interview at the United Nations. "I'm a realist, OK, and we've seen that before. We need to complete this mission with their help. We are getting very close. The riding is getting tougher."

The multinational force has about 138,000 U.S. troops and more than 22,000 soldiers from 27 other countries. Patterson said it had trained and equipped 165,000 Iraqi soldiers and police, but more needs to be done so Iraqi forces can take control of the country's security and gain the confidence of the Iraqi people.