Obama Reaffirms Pledge|to Withdraw Troops

WASHINGTON (CN) – President Obama reaffirmed his campaign promise Monday to remove all combat troops from Iraq by the end of August.
“As a candidate for president, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end,” Obama told an audience of disabled veterans in Atlanta. “And that is exactly what we are doing – as promised and on schedule.”
Obama’s speech made good on a promise given during a speech at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina in February last year. “Let me say this as plainly as I can,” Obama said, “by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.”
By that date, an estimated 50,000 U.S. troops will be in Iraq, about 90,000 troops less than the 145,000 in Iraq when Obama took office. Obama has promised to remove all troops from the country by the end of 2011.
As part of the current military drawdown, U.S. forces have already closed hundreds of bases and moved “millions of pieces” of equipment, Obama said.
But Obama emphasized that the close of combat operations signaled a shift in strategy, not the end of the war.
“The hard truth is we have not seen the end of American sacrifice in Iraq,” Obama said. “Our commitment in Iraq is changing – from a military effort led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats.”
Obama outlined a threefold mission for U.S. operations in Iraq: training Iraqi security forces to take over for U.S. troops, partnering with Iraqis in counterterrorism efforts, and protecting civilian and military gains in the country.
Obama acknowledged divisive public opinion about the 7-year-old war, but said that in the midst of “vigorous debate” over U.S. presence there, “there has never been any daylight between us when it comes to supporting the more than one million Americans in uniform have served in Iraq.”
“I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time,” Vice President Joe Biden told troops in a welcome home ceremony last week in New York. “Anyone who last spent time in Iraq in 2006 or 2007 would hardly recognize it,” Biden said, citing evidence of American successes in reducing sectarian violence and increasing stability.
Obama also reasserted his commitment to the war in Afghanistan during his speech.
“Let us never forget – it was Afghanistan where al Qaeda plotted and trained to murder 3,000 innocent people on 9/11,” Obama said. “It is Afghanistan and the tribal regions of Pakistan where terrorists have launched other attacks against us and our allies. And if Afghanistan were to be engulfed by an even wide insurgency, al Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates would have even more space to plan their next attack.”
“We’re going on the offensive against the Taliban,” Obama said.
In December, Obama called for a 30,000 troop surge in Afghanistan, while still holding to his promise to begin removing troops from the country in July 2011.

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