US - Iraq

Obama promises end of US combat mission in Iraq

Reuters

The United States will end its combat mission in Iraq as promised on 31 August. President Barack Obama said Monday that he will make good on the promise he made when he took office, despite a recent flare-up of violence.

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"I made it clear that by 31 August 2010, America's combat mission in Iraq would end," he told a veterans group meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, referring to a speech he made in February 2009, a month after he took office. "And that is exactly what we are doing, as promised, on schedule."

A security agreement with Baghdad made before he took office called for all US forces to pull out by the end of 2011.

There are currently 65,000 US troops in Iraq. The end of Operation Iraqi Freedom, launched by former President George W Bush in 2003, will see troop levels reduced to 50,000.

Interview: former UN asistant general secretary Dennis Halliday

Obama said this transitional force, called Operation New Dawn, will be gone by the end of next year.

He said the withdrawal of 15,000 troops by the end of August will be "one of the largest logistics operations that we've seen in decades."

The US mission is changing "from a military effort led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats”, said Obama.

Former UN humanitarian coordinator Dennis Halliday believes the statement is motivated by domestic poltical considerations.

"I think Mr Obama is trying to satisfy American oposition to the Iraq war after loss of American lives," he told RFI. "He's leaving 50,000 behind in the country.

"They need support people. That's a 100,000 all together. He said on TV he's withdrawing a milion pieces of military equipment, thus leaving the Iraqis with no equipment to fight their enemies."

The promise to draw down troop levels comes as violence has been increasing in Iraq. July was the deadliest month since May 2008, according to Iraqi government figures released at the weekend that showed 535 people died, including 396 civilians, 89 police officers and 50 soldiers.

A US military spokesperson countered the figures, and Obama said that "violence in Iraq continues to be near the lowest it's been in years".

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