US Combat Mission In Iraq To End On Schedule Aug 31: Obama

Washington: The United States will end its combat mission in Iraq as scheduled on August 31 despite the recent flare-up in violence, President Barack Obama said in a speech prepared for delivery today. "Shortly after
us combat mission in iraq to end on schedule aug...
PTI 02 Aug 2010, 10:15 PM IST

Washington: The United States will end its combat mission in Iraq as scheduled on August 31 despite the recent flare-up in violence, President Barack Obama said in a speech prepared for delivery today.

"Shortly after taking office, I announced our new strategy for Iraq and for a transition to full Iraqi responsibility," Obama will tell a national convention of Disabled American Veterans in Atlanta, Georgia, according to excerpts of his speech released by the White House.

"And I made it clear that by August 31, 2010 America's combat mission in Iraq would end," the president continued. "And that is exactly what we are doing, as promised, on schedule."

As president, Obama inherited a security agreement with Baghdad that calls for all US forces to pull out by the end of 2011. He has ordered the force to draw down to 50,000 by September 1.

There are about 65,000 US soldiers currently stationed in Iraq.

The pullout confirmation comes amid an increase of violence in Iraq, with the Baghdad government releasing figures Saturday that said 535 people died in July, including 396 civilians, 89 policemen and 50 soldiers.

That figure was the highest for a single month since May 2008 when 563 people were killed in violence.

 But Major General Stephen Lanza, a spokesman for US forces in Iraq, said the Iraqi government figures did not "reflect the security situation" while data provided to media by unofficial sources were "grossly overstated."

 Obama said that even as militants try to derail the country's progress, "violence in Iraq continues to be near the lowest it's been in years."

 He pointed out that in coming months, the United States will maintain a transitional force in Iraq and remove all of its troops from the country by the end of 2011.

According to the president, US forces will focus during this transitional period on supporting and training Iraqi forces, counter-terrorism missions and protecting US civilian and military initiatives.

"But make no mistake, our commitment in Iraq is changing -- from a military effort led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats," the president stressed.

"And as we mark the end of America's combat mission in Iraq, a grateful America must pay tribute to all who served there."

August 31 will also mark the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom launched by former president Geroge W. Bush with the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, according to White House officials. (AFP)

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