Thursday, August 12, 2010

US 'on target' to end Iraq combat operations



The US says it is on target to end combat operations in Iraq by the end of August and meet its deadline for removing all troops by the end of 2011. The White House said President Obama was satisfied with the progress Iraq had made, which would allow US troops to transfer security to local forces. The US currently has 64,000 soldiers stationed in Iraq. About 50,000 will stay until the end of 2011 to advise Iraqi forces and protect US interests.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Mr Obama had been briefed on the situation by Gen Ray Odierno, the US commander in Iraq. "Already we have removed over 80,000 troops from Iraq since President Obama took office," said Mr Gibbs. "Gen Odierno also reported that the security situation has retained the significant improvements made over the last couple of years and that Iraqi security forces are fully prepared to be in the lead when we end our combat mission later this month."

Attacks expected

However, he said it was likely there would be an increase in insurgent attacks as the US withdrawal approached. "We continue to anticipate... a traditional up-tick of violence around Ramadan and as those [insurgents] that are left try to gain attention," he said. The Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, which has now begun, has previously coincided with a spike in insurgent activity. More than 100 people have died in attacks across the country so far this month. July was Iraq's deadliest month since 2008.

Mr Gibbs added that President Obama was also brought up to date on Iraq's so far unsuccessful efforts to form a new government. The country's political leadership is still deadlocked after national elections in March failed to produce a clear winner.

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