WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Iraq's ambassador to the United States said Tuesday that his country still needs the U.S. military to survive and predicted that the next U.S. president, whoever it is, will agree that the troops will have to stay for at least a while longer.
Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie predicts that Iraq will be "a work in progress" in five years.
"Now it is all about getting votes," Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie said of the presidential hopefuls and their views on Iraq.
"When the candidate is successful and is in the White House, that candidate is going to have a different mind frame. At that point, most of the choices will converge."
Sumaidaie, who made the comments after a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, added that he has been in contact with the U.S. presidential campaigns.
Earlier, he told the Washington think tank that American forces "have to leave in a responsible manner."
"We want them to leave. Let's be clear," he said.
Sumaidaie spoke as Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker were talking to Congress about the latest U.S. military and diplomatic strategy.
The focus of Sumaidaie's speech was "Iraq after five years."
Looking ahead to that time frame, he predicted that Iraq will still be "a work in progress," comparing the current situation in the nation to "a recovery from a terminal illness."
"I am willing to predict there will be gradual reduction over the next few years of American involvement, commitment in Iraq, but I am not willing to get into numbers and dates," he said.
After his speech, he said he understands the frustration of members of Congress and many Americans seeking to end U.S. involvement in Iraq.
"I say to them, yes, I understand your pain, but it is not something you can get out of so easily. This is the wrong time unless you want to hand the country on a plate to Iran," he said.
Future Iraqi governments will decide whether non-combat U.S. military forces will stay in Iraq, he added. E-mail to a friend