AMANPOUR: So let me ask you about the diplomatic engagement, as you say. Do you think that the effort on military drawdown and the engagement that you have had with the Iraqis on the military drawdown may have not been matched by the effort on the diplomatic and political front?
ODIERNO: Well, I think, again, they come at different times. I think what we now have is -- it's about -- it's not only about our commitment; it's about the Iraqis now having the capability to move forward. And what we've seen over the last two years, that their governmental entities have improved significantly, and they are starting to move forward economically. For example, they have signed a whole bunch of oil contracts now that are just beginning to be executed across Iraq. So we're starting to see this economic progress.
You know, the political progress is slow because of the delaying of formation of the government. But I would say that's because we had legitimate, credible elections. The results were very close, and so now it's made it very difficult to form the government. But all the sides are talking. They are working through the formation of the government.
And so I think they understand the importance of getting a government formed, so they continue to get assistance from the United States in developing their capacity across the economic and diplomatic spectrum.
AMANPOUR: Do you think, General, that the government will be formed by September 1, when you are meant to be withdrawing to 50,000 force?
ODIERNO: Again, I would say the numbers and our numbers of withdrawing is not linked to the governmental formation process. Do I think they will have made progress by the 1st of September? I think so. I think we'll see some first steps toward forming a government by 1 September, but our numbers are not linked to that formation of the government. Our numbers are linked to the capacity that the Iraqis -- of the Iraqi security forces being able to sustain stability. And I think they are moving toward that capacity.
And I remind everybody that we'll have 50,000 troops on the ground post 1 September, and that is still a very significant presence to continue to assist the Iraqi security forces as we move forward.
AMANPOUR: What are you noticing in terms of interference potentially from other funded groups from the neighbors? Do you notice or are you alarmed that there may be any kind of other countries trying to take advantage of what is a bit of a political vacuum right now?
ODIERNO: Well, Iraq, as you well know, Christiane, Iraq is a strategically important place in the Middle East, just by its geographic location, by its population, by the influence it's had in the Middle East for a long time. So neighboring countries from around the Middle East have an interest inside of Iraq.
But I will tell you that I think Iraqis themselves are nationalistic in nature, and that's why it's important. A strong Iraq will defend itself against interference from outside countries, and I think as we build a strong Iraq and as we continue to build a strong security mechanism and as we continue to help them economically and diplomatically, that will make it less likely of others from the outside being able to interfere.