CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – Six years after an invasion he opposed and six weeks in office, President Barack Obama on Friday drew a finish line for the Iraq war, promising to end the combat mission in 18 months and to follow by pulling all troops out by the end of 2011 as per an existing accord with Iraq.
“Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end,” he said in a speech at the Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune, N.C. “As we carry out this drawdown, my highest priority will be the safety and security of our troops and civilians in Iraq.”
Even with the end of the combat mission, which would come three months later than Obama pledged during his presidential campaign, a force numbering between 35,000 to 50,000 American forces will stay behind in non-combat roles, with the final troops not slated to leave until Dec. 31, 2011.
“Our enemies should be left with no doubt: This plan gives our military the forces and the flexibility they need to support our Iraqi partners, and to succeed,” the president said.
His decision to leave a sizable force was welcomed by some congressional Republicans, including former presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, while some Democrats were concerned too many troops would remain in Iraq.
“I am cautiously optimistic that the plan as laid out by the president can lead to success,” McCain said Friday on the Senate floor.
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