Saturday, February 28, 2009

Announcement of withdrawal dates in Iraq - 4,252 have been killed in action

U.S. Military troops in Iraq take a moment for prayer.

February 27, 2009 - CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – President Barack Obama drew a firm finish line in the Iraq war Friday, six years after the invasion that he opposed and six weeks into his presidency. He said he would withdraw combat forces within 18 months. "Let me say this as plainly as I can," he said. "By August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end."

"The most important decisions that have to be made about Iraq's future must now be made by Iraqis," the president said. He stated that the commander on ground has asked for longer time due to the national elections that will take place in December.

All U.S. troops must be out of Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011. That's the deadline set under an agreement the two countries sealed near the end of Bush's presidency. Obama has no plans to extend that date or pursue any permanent troop presence in Iraq.

He said his administration will "proceed cautiously" on the withdrawal and that U.S. commanders will bring it about in close consultation with the Iraqi government.

Currently there are about 140,000 US troops in Iraq and the withdrawal is expected to reduce that number to about 50,000 soldiers who will remain as trainers and for force protection.

During his campaign for the presidency, Barack Obama had advocated pulling troops out within 16 months of taking office. The timeline he announced Friday was two months longer. It will still speed up the exit of the U.S. troops from Iraq.

The U.S. forces that will remain in Iraq starting Sept. 1, 2010, will have three missions:

1. Training and advising Iraqi security forces.

2.Providing protection and support for U.S. and other civilians working on missions in the country.

3. Targeted counterterrorism.

President Obama has identified Afghanistan as the top military priority for the United States and wants to shift forces from Iraq to that country. He has already announced the deployment of 17,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan this year.

The president thanked the troops present and also stated that they will receive a pay increase. This announcement received a hearty applause

Military personnel interviewed after the speech said that they appreciated Obama's pledges both to provide more care for wounded veterans and to remove combat troops from Iraq next year.

Iraq,  a costly, unpopular enterprise at home that Barack Obama criticized when support for the invasion was strong and few other politicians dared stand against it.

He applauded the armed forces for successes in Iraq, where U.S. deaths and violence in many parts of the country are significantly down.

As a pacifist I would like to see the war ended immediately, however, I must admit that the statements made by the president seem to be in accord with the statements that he made during this campaign for president. At that time he stated that he would start to reduce the troops in Iraq. He also clearly stated several times that he would accelerate the number of troops in Afghanistan.

The reality is that 4,252 U.S. military have been killed in Iraq with 31,039 wounded. 660 military troops have been killed in Afghanistan. In President Obama’s own words “We cannot sustain indefinitely a commitment that has put a strain on our military, and will cost the American people nearly a trillion dollars."

Imagine  that amount of money being spent on persons in need in the United States! I feel that the President’s announcements are a step in the right direction. I continue to be very proud of the troops who serve in the military; I just wish that they could come home sooner. 

I will continue to oppose both wars and I also urge others to do so. Hopefully, someone will listen to those who are against war. 
I will continue to pray for peace.

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