President Obama said Friday he plans to withdraw most U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of August 2010.
“Let me say this as plainly as I can: By August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end,” Obama said in a speech at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Between 35,000 to 50,000 troops will remain in Iraq, he said. They would be withdrawn gradually until all U.S. forces are out of Iraq by December 31, 2011 — the deadline set under an agreement the Bush administration signed with the Iraqi government last year. Obama’s trip to Camp Lejeune is his first trip to a military base since being sworn in. Administration officials, who briefed reporters on the plan, said the remaining troops would take on an advisory role in training and equipping Iraqi forces, supporting civilian operations in Iraq and conducting targeted counterterrorism missions, which would include some combat. Watch an ex-general survey the strategy Obama made his decision after reviewing options presented by key military and civilian advisers, the officials said.
Sources: Obama to end combat mission in Iraq
Poll: Most support troop surge plan in Afghanistan
Obama seeks $200 billion for war spending
There are 142,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. During the presidential campaign, Obama pledged to pull out all the troops within 16 months. The plan he announced Friday exceeds that promise by three months. The officials would not say how many of the troops leaving Iraq would be redeployed to Afghanistan. When asked whether there was a plan to send troops back if Iraq became unstable after the pullout, a senior aide said the president has always said he wanted to have some “flexibility” on the issue. Watch how lives will remain on the line The president’s troop withdrawal plan is meeting with mixed reviews in Congress. Some Democrats — including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — have expressed concern that the residual force is too large. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, however, said in a speech on the Senate floor that he believes Obama’s decision is “reasonable” and that he was “cautiously optimistic that the plan that is laid out by the president can lead to success.” McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that a “failing situation in Iraq has been arrested and reversed” because of “dramatic success of the surge strategy.” iReport.com: What’s next for U.S. troops in Iraq
He also praised Obama’s willingness to leave behind a significant residual force force and reassess the situation if conditions change in the future. “We are finally on a path to success,” McCain said. “Let us have no crisis of confidence now.”