End of US Combat Mission in Iraq
The United States will end its combat mission in Iraq as scheduled on August 31 despite a recent flare-up in violence, President Barack Obama said in a speech earlier this week.
"Shortly after taking office, I announced our new strategy for Iraq and for a transition to full Iraqi responsibility. I made it clear that by August 31, 2010 America's combat mission in Iraq would end," the President said, "and that is exactly what we are doing, as promised, on schedule."
When he became 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. Currently, there are about 65,000 US soldiers 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. This figure was the highest for a single month since May 2008 when 563 people were killed in violence.
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 said the United States will maintain a transitional force in Iraq in the coming months and remove all of its troops by the end of 2011. During this transition period, US forces will focus on supporting and training Iraqi forces, counter-terrorism missions, and protecting US civilian and military initiatives, Obama said.
Along with the troops, Washington is reducing its military equipment in the country. By end of August, US forces in Iraq will cut back its equipment from 3.4 million pieces in January 2009 to 1.2 million pieces, which are required to support the remaining troops, according to the White House. The equipment is being moved to Afghanistan, US military stockpiles and to Iraqi Security Forces. US forces are also scheduled to reduce from 121 to to 94 the number of bases they occupy in Iraq, White House officials said. By comparison, US troops occupied 357 Iraqi bases in June 2009.