Iraq is stable enough to allow the roughly 22,000 US Marines there to withdraw, the service's top general said Friday.
"The time is right for Marines in general terms to leave Iraq," said Marine Corps Commandant James Conway.
That war has become largely a nation-building mission rather than the pitched fighting in which the Marine Corps excels, Conway said.
Conway said he wants to see up to 20,000 Marines deployed instead to the building fight in Afghanistan, especially in the south where insurgents and the Taliban and al-Qaida benefit from both a nearby safe haven and booming trade in narcotics.
"When you've got those two elements you've got the potential for a long-term insurgency," he said. "That's where the Marines ought to be. That's what we offer the nation," he said.
The Marine Corps cannot fight in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he said, because it does not have enough combat support troops and equipment to divide between the missions.