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ARLINGTON, Va. — U.S. troops will not have to replace British troops, who are expected to leave southern Iraq later this year, said British Maj. Gen. Andy Salmon on Monday.

Salmon’s comments come after the top U.S. commander in Iraq said last month that he was considering sending U.S. troops to Basra to replace the British.

Army Gen. Ray Odierno said in December that he might move a brigade or division headquarters to Basra followed by an undetermined number of combat troops, according to The Associated Press.

"We think it’s important to maintain some presence down here just because we think Basra is an important city, and we think it’s important to have some oversight here," he said.

Multi-National Force–Iraq was unable to say by deadline Monday whether Odierno had changed his mind.

"I know that the commander on the ground here will want to make sure he has some situational awareness, but it won’t be replacing U.K. troops man for man," Salmon told reporters.

British troops are expected to pull out of Iraq by July 31, Salmon said. Iraqi security forces in the region are already in the lead, with the help of some U.S. training teams.

"In terms of the Iraqi security force’s capabilities to manage internal security issues, I think that’s really good," he said, adding that both Iraqi troops and police still need work.

As security conditions have improved, the mission in Basra has changed to ensuring the rule of law, providing stability and helping local government to be effective, Salmon said.

Iraqi security forces are able to handle any "low-level violence" following Saturday’s provincial elections, and British troops are expected to complete their mission by May 31, he said.

"So essentially there is no relief in place," he said.

"This is a different mission that we’ve been building up; new security conditions; Iraqis are in charge; Brits finish their job off and they redeploy leaving no vacuums."

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