18 MONTHS TO GO
President Barack Obama has announced the withdrawal of most US troops in Iraq by the end of August 2010. In a speech at a Marine Corps base Camp Lejeune, on Friday 02/27/2009, he said the US “combat mission” in Iraq would officially end by that time.
But up to 50,000 of 142,000 troops now there will stay into 2011 to advise Iraqi forces and protect US interests, leaving by the end of 2011 in line with an agreement signed between the two countries last year. Despite the progress made in Iraq President Obama warned: “Iraq is not yet secure, and there will be difficult days ahead.”
Mr Obama had said during his election campaign that he would completely pull out troops within 16 months of taking the top job.
President Obama still faces a war of its own. Earlier this month, he ordered the deployment of up to 17,000 extra USA troops to Afghanistan, saying they had been due to go to Iraq but were being redirected to “meet urgent security needs” (see – Obama’s deployment).
New Obama’s strategy recognized that the long-term solution in Iraq must be political and that the most important decisions about its future must now be made by Iraqis, he said.
“We have also taken into account the simple reality that America can no longer afford to see Iraq in isolation from other priorities: we face the challenge of refocusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan; of relieving the burden on our military; and of rebuilding our struggling economy – and these are challenges that we will meet.”
President Obama also said his administration would increase the numbers of soldiers and Marines, in order to lessen the burden on those now serving, and was committed to expanding veterans’ health care.
Mr Obama said that as a result of lessons learned from Iraq, he had ordered a review of USA policy in Afghanistan and put the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan into the federal budget.
Stressing that Iraq’s future was inseparable from that of the broader Middle East, Mr Obama said the US would now “pursue principled and sustained engagement with all of the nations in the region, and that will include Iran and Syria”.
However, some are deeply worried about what exactly will happen when USA combat troops disappear. While Iraq’s security forces are much more capable now, they depend heavily on US back-up for logistics, intelligence and air support, commentators say. A great deal of American financial and practical support may be needed for many years ahead and a fast withdrawal could reverse the dramatic but fragile gains in security in Iraq.
Basically reduction of troops in Iraq seems to be possible because the unprecedented achievements of USA Army in encountering terror and guerilla in the last two years, during Bush’s administration, with the same Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. President Obama follows the principles of the Security Pact approved by Iraq’s cabinet, on 11/16/2008, (see – IRAQ-US DEAL) and the successful municipal elections (see – BUSHS SUCCESS), held in Iraq on 01/31/2009. Eventually it is Barack Obama who is picking the fruits.
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