A leading U.S. military commander in Iraq says the government there will begin paying the salaries of about 54,000 of the mostly Sunni fighters in Baghdad Province who joined the fight against Al Qaeda.

While the transfer next month will mark more progress in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin said that despite significant declines in violence in the Anbar Province, the U.S. military is not likely to further reduce troop levels there in the near future.

He said the decision to divert one Marine battalion to Afghanistan later this year, rather than to Iraq as initially planned, will not be followed quickly by additional drawdowns.