US soldiers back from Iraq made `America safer`: Obama
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Last Updated: Saturday, August 28, 2010, 00:33
Vineyard Haven (US): US President Barack Obama in a YouTube message today thanked US troops back from Iraq for their "dedication" and "courage" that "has made America safer."

The US military has pulled tens of thousands of combat troops out of Iraq in recent months, with numbers now below 50,000, less than a third of the peak level in 2007, ahead of a complete pullout in December 2011.

"I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all the men and women who have served in Iraq and who are currently serving in Iraq," Obama said in the short video posted on the White House website.

"Your dedication, your bravery, your courage, has made America safer and has helped stand up democracy in Iraq."

Obama will mark the end of US combat operations in Iraq on August 31 in a speech to be delivered from the Oval Office.

Some 50,000 US troops however will remain in the country, nominally as trainers, ahead of a full exit currently scheduled for December 2011.

The exit of the combat troops is a key milestone, as the remaining US force hands over the responsibility for security to the Iraqis and assumes a more advisory role.

It comes, however, as a spike in unrest over the past two months triggers concern that Iraqi forces are not yet ready to handle security on their own, and with no new government formed in Baghdad since a March 7 general election.

An Iraqi poll on Tuesday cast doubt on Obama's decision to pull out thousands more soldiers. More than half those questioned warned that the timing was wrong and that it would have negative consequences.

More than 4,400 US troops were killed and billions of dollars were spent ousting Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003 and quelling the ensuing sectarian and al Qaeda violence that ripped the country apart.

Bureau Report

First Published: Saturday, August 28, 2010, 00:33

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