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Army Chief Dempsey Willing to Keep U.S. Troops in Iraq Past 2011

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April 13 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Army’s new chief of staff said he would support keeping American troops in Iraq beyond December if requested by Iraqi leaders.

“It would certainly be in our interest to see Iraq remain on its current path and become even more stable,” General Martin Dempsey told reporters today during a briefing at the Pentagon. “As a member of the national security team, that would be my advice.”

Dempsey, who was sworn in April 11 as the Army’s top military officer, didn’t say how many service members should stay in Iraq if requested. The U.S. has about 47,000 troops there, mostly advising and assisting Iraqi security forces. The U.S. troops are scheduled to leave by the end of the year.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said the Iraqi government should decide soon so the U.S. can plan effectively. Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, has said Iraq “could go to hell” without a continued presence of between 10,000 and 15,000 U.S. troops in 2012.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brendan McGarry in Washington at bmcgarry2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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