US President Barack Obama on Friday stated all American combat troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of August 2010. In a speech before Marines and military leadership, he announced that the vast majority of those involved in the pullout will not leave this year. Obama also said that tens of thousands of U.S. personnel will remain behind afterward.
"The most important decisions that have to be made about Iraq's future must now be made by Iraqis," the American president said.
Senior Obama administration officials had said earlier that of the roughly 100,000 U.S. combat troops to be pulled out of Iraq over the next 18 months, most will remain in the war zone through at least the end of this year to ensure national elections there go smoothly.
"America can no longer afford to see Iraq in isolation from other priorities: we face the challenge of refocusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan; of relieving the burden on our military; and of rebuilding our struggling economy and these are challenges that we will meet," Obama said.
He also acknowledged that many problems remain in the country and said "there will be difficult days ahead." But, the president said the U.S. cannot continue to try to solve all Iraq's problems.
"We cannot rid Iraq of all who oppose America or sympathize with our adversaries," he said. "We cannot police Iraq's streets until they are completely safe, nor stay until Iraq's union is perfected. We cannot sustain indefinitely a commitment that has put a strain on our military, and will cost the American people nearly a trillion dollars."
He emphasized that an end to the war does not mean the U.S. plans to withdraw from its interests in the region. He promised intensified diplomatic and humanitarian efforts.
"The end of the war in Iraq will enable a new era of American leadership and engagement in the Middle East," Obama said.