Obama to Reaffirm Iraq Withdrawal Strategy Is On Track

By PETER BAKER, The New York Times

WASHINGTON – Nearly eight years after he denounced what he called a “dumb war” in Iraq and nearly two years after he won the White House promising to end it, President Obama on Monday plans to mark the formal end of the combat mission there.

While most public attention these past months has focused on Mr. Obama’s expansive and hotly disputed domestic agenda, the military has quietly been making progress toward the goal that first animated his campaign for the presidency: pulling out of Iraq.

By the end of this month, in accordance with the strategy Mr. Obama put in place after taking office, the American force in Iraq will have shrunk from 144,000 to just 50,000 troops. The remaining “advise and assist” brigades will officially focus on supporting and training Iraqi security forces, protecting American personnel and facilities and mounting counterterrorism operations. Those 50,000 troops are due to leave by the end of 2011.

“As a candidate for president, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end,” Mr. Obama says in remarks prepared for delivery Monday to the Disabled American Veterans in Atlanta. “Shortly after taking office, I announced our new strategy for Iraq and for a transition to full Iraqi responsibility. And I made it clear that by August 31, 2010, America’s combat mission in Iraq would end. And that is exactly what we are doing – as promised, on schedule.”

Mr. Obama’s planned appearance before the veterans group will be the first of several similar events in coming weeks to draw attention to the transition in Iraq. While he has gone months without mentioning the war much in public as he focused on tightening regulation of the financial industry and stopping the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the president is now trying to remind Americans of one of his most important, if largely unheralded decisions.

The high-level public focus on Iraq appears aimed at least in part at blunting some of the growing frustration, particularly among his liberal base, over the struggling war in Afghanistan. The president essentially is arguing to skeptics in the public and in Congress that he is bringing at least one war to a conclusion and can do so with another eventually as well.

To read more, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/03/us/politics/03prexy.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

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