Commander Says U.S. Still on Schedule to Leave Iraq


Despite a recent spate of attacks, the United States will leave Iraq on schedule, the top American commander in Iraq said on Sunday.
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said that he would continue to monitor the situation on the ground, but that overall violence in Iraq remained at its lowest levels since just after the United States began the war in March 2003.

“If we believe that we’ll need troops to maintain a presence in some of the cities, we’ll recommend that,” he said. “But ultimately it will be the decision of Prime Minister Maliki.”

When asked by John King, the host of the show, what the chances are — on a scale of 1 to 10 — that the United States would leave Iraq on schedule by the end of 2011, General Odierno said, “I believe it’s a 10.”

President Obama has said that American soldiers will leave Iraq’s major cities by June 30 and that all United States. troops will withdraw from the country by the end of 2011, a timetable agreed to by both countries.

In Baghdad on Saturday, a suicide bomber killed 13 members of the Sunni Awakening Councils, the erstwhile groups that have helped quell violence across the country. In Mosul on Friday, a bomber killed two Iraqi policemen and five American soldiers.

On Sunday, a roadside bomb killed another American soldier. Last week, a series of cars bombings in Baghdad killed at least 33 people.

Nine Americans have been killed in March, the lowest number of deaths since the United States, along with a multinational force, invaded Iraq in 2003. Yet the recent attacks have brought attention to the country’s persistent violence and the lasting tension between the Awakening Councils and the Iraqi government. They have also called into question whether reduced levels of violence can be maintained after an American military withdrawal.

On Easter morning, there was no overarching themes to the Sunday talk shows, whose subjects included the state of the economy, the issue of marijuana legalization and the American ship captain, Richard Phillips, who was being held captive by Somali pirates.

On ABC’s “This Week,” Rick Warren, the pastor and author of “The Purpose-Driven Life,” was scheduled to address seemingly contradictory statements he has made about whether he supported Proposition 8, a measure that banned gay marriage in California.

Just moments before interview, however, Mr. Warren canceled, citing exhaustion.

In a video newsletter he sent out to members of his congregation last fall, Mr. Warren said: “We support Proposition 8. And if you believe what the Bible says, you need to support Proposition 8.”

Yet on “Larry King Live” earlier this month, Mr. Warren said: “I am not an anti-gay, or anti-gay marriage, activist. Never have been. Never will be. During the whole Proposition 8 thing I never once went to a meeting, never once issued a statement, never once even gave an endorsement in the two years prop 8 was going. The week before the vote, somebody in my church said, ‘Pastor Rick, what do you think about this?’ And I sent a note to my own members that said: ‘I actually that believe marriage is really — should be defined — that that definition should be say between a man and a woman.’ And then all of sudden out of it, they made me something that I really wasn’t.”

In December, President Obama selected Mr. Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration in a move widely seen as a peace offering to conservatives. Mr. Warren, a prominent evangelical leader, has been vocal about the need for Christians to do more to combat global poverty, AIDS, genocide and climate change.