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
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.