Sunday, March 1, 2009

August 31, 2010: Obama names the day for Iraq war to end but up to 50,000 U.S. soldiers to stay - Daily Mail

President Obama has announced that the war in Iraq would end in 18 months.

Formally announcing a withdrawal date for most U.S. troops he said: ‘Let me say this as plainly as I can, by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.’

He added: ‘We cannot sustain indefinitely a combat that is putting a strain on the American military and has cost nearly a trillion dollars.’

The confirmation of his election campaign pledge to draw the conflict to a close came as Britain’s Foreign Secretary claimed the Iraqis were ‘impatient’ to take control over their own affairs.

While visiting British troops in Basra yesterday, David Miliband said conditions in Iraq are improving every week and the country is ‘yearning’ to make its way after almost six years of occupation.

But while just a few hundred UK troops will remain after Britain pulls out of Iraq for good in July, Mr Obama was criticised by leaders in his Democrat party last night for planning to leave a U.S. force of between 30,000 and 50,000 in the country until the end of 2011.

The President said the troops were needed to train and equip the Iraqi army, protect civilian reconstruction projects and conduct limited counterterrorism operations.

Republicans in Congress also complained that pulling out troops too fast could sacrifice security gains.

The President said Iraq had weathered ‘horrific’ sectarian killings in 2006 and 2007 but that violence had now been substantially reduced, while the capabilities of its security forces, rebuilt after the U.S.-led invasion, had improved.

But he warned: ‘Iraq is not yet secure, and there will be difficult days ahead. Violencewill continue to be a part of life in Iraq.'

‘Too many fundamental political questions about Iraq’s future remain unresolved.’
The announcement came just hours after it was confirmed a ban on photographing soldiers' flag-draped coffins on their return to the States would be lifted.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has decided to allow photos of caskets at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, if the families of the fallen troops agree.

The current ban was put in place nearly 20 years ago by President George H.W. Bush to prevent widespread negative publicity of bodies being brought back from the first Gulf War.

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