LONDON – Iraq's (search) interior minister told British television Sunday he expected U.S. and other foreign forces to leave his country within 18 months.
Falah al-Naqib (search) told Channel 4 News that Iraq was well on its way to building its own security force and multinational forces would no longer be required.
"I think we will be able to depend on ourselves, if everything goes in the right direction," al-Naqib said.
"We are building our forces and I think we will need 18 months. It's my estimate that we will have quite a reasonable-sized force, trained, well-trained force, well-equipped to protect the country."
"So I believe very much that we won't need more than 18 months," al-Naqib said.
Iraqis showed support for democracy in large numbers Sunday, standing in long lines to vote for a National Assembly and provincial legislatures.
U.S. officials are counting on the new government and increased training of Iraqi security forces to help stabilize the country, paving the way for the 150,000 U.S. troops to eventually go home.