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U.S. on track to pull 50,000 troops from Iraq by August -- Mullen

WASHINGTON, May 30 (KUNA) -- The United States remains on track to remove 50,000 more U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of August, U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Sunday.
"Right now, the trends (in Iraq) are moving in the right direction," Mullen said in a CNN "State of the Union" interview.
However, Mullen noted that since the Iraqi elections on March 7, the Iraqis still have not formed a new government.
"Iraq needs to stand up a new government," he said. "We are watching the political maneuverings." The recent uptick in violence in Iraq, marked by attacks by bombers and gunmen, has not resulted in a new round of sectarian strife, Mullen said.
Asked about the upcoming U.S.-led military offensive planned in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Mullen said governnance issues were "key" to success, not just the military campaign.
Afghan officials in Kandahar talk about the importance of "medical care, education and jobs" that would show the government in Kabul is able to provide more than just security, Mullen said.
"There is a complex set of relationships between tribes in Kandahar, and that is reflective of the entire country," he said.
"What we do in the next several months will be critical, and I think by the end of the year we will know whatever it has been successful or not," Mullen said, referring to the Obama administration's strategy of defeating the Taliban insurgency.
Turning to Iran, Mullen said he continued to hope that diplomacy and engagement will lead the efforts to deal with the Iranian nuclear issue.
However, he said it remained his belief that Iran has a "continued desire to achieve a nuclear weapons capability," but he refused to discuss any military options that may be considered to deal with the issue should diplomacy fail. (end) rm.ajs KUNA 301707 May 10NNNN