U.S. President Barack Obama says he will withdraw all American combat troops from Iraq by the end of August 2010.
Mr. Obama made the announcement Friday to Marines at Camp Lejeune, a U.S. military base in the southeastern state of North Carolina. The president said up to 50,000 troops could stay in Iraq for limited missions in training and combating terrorism. He said he intends to remove all troops by the end of 2011, in accordance with a U.S.-Iraq security deal.
Mr. Obama said that Iraq is not yet secure and that difficult days lie ahead, but he said the United States must refocus on other priorities, such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. The president said the United States will continue to pursue diplomatic and political efforts to support Iraq's security and improve local government. He also said the U.S. has a "strategic interest" and "moral responsibility" to help resettle refugees displaced by the war.
The White House says Mr. Obama called Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and former U.S. President George W. Bush to brief them on the withdrawal plans.The withdrawal timeframe is slightly longer than Mr. Obama promised while campaigning for the presidency. Officials say it will allow the U.S. to maintain a strong presence in Iraq through a series of regional elections there, and national elections set for the end of the year. For U.S. troops returning home, Mr. Obama promised to expand veteran health services to treat combat wounds such as post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.Around 142,000 U.S. troops are serving in Iraq.