Obama: combat in Iraq to end in 2010

U.S. President Barack Obama has presented a time line for ending combat operations in Iraq, followed by the withdrawal of military forces. He announced the plans during a speech at a military base in North Carolina.

“Let me say this as plainly as I can. By August 31, 2010 our combat mission in Iraq will end,” Obama said. “I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.”

The words by the President were met with loud applause.

“As we carry out this draw-down, my highest priority will be the safety and security of our troops and civilians in Iraq,” the US president said.

While the president pledged to have all combat forces out of Iraq by August 31 of next year, between 35,000 and 50,000 “non-combat” troops will remain in the country.

The contingent of American troops in Iraq currently numbers 142,000.

Obama praised the achievements of the military and promised more government support for veterans.

He also said there was an ongoing policy review of operations in Afghanistan.

Following the president’s address on Friday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the United Sates “should be prepared to have some very modest-sized presence” in Iraq after 2011 “for training, helping them [Iraqis] with their equipment and perhaps some intelligence support.”

“They will have [combat] capability but the units will be gone, and more importantly the mission will have changed,” Gates said. “And so the notion of being engaged in combat in the way we have been up until now will be completely different.”

He said it “remains to be seen” whether the units remaining in Iraq will be new units or “re-missioned” combat units. Gates underlined, though, that either way, they will be engaged in a “new, much more limited mission.”