Washington: US now has less than 50,000 troops in Iraq for the first since its 2003 invasion, which has been achieved ahead of President Barack Obama's August-end deadline, the White House said.
There are currently 49,700 troops in Iraq and that number will remain level through next summer. "This is part of his efforts to responsibly draw down our forces from Iraq and transition to Iraqi security forces the responsibility for security in that country," White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said. On September one, he said the US mission will shift and will have a change in command in Iraq.
Obama is expected to make a speech to mark this important transition. "After September 1st, the United States will have a different mission: one of advising and assisting Iraqi security forces, joining the Iraqis in targeted counter- terrorism operations, and protecting US troops and civilians who remain in Iraq," he said. After Obama assumed office in January 2009, the US has removed some 94,000 US troops from Iraq. "Our efforts to draw down in Iraq are a critical part of our transition to full Iraqi responsibility, in line with the President's goal of supporting an Iraq that is sovereign, stable and self-reliant. They're also part of our broader national security approach. "By drawing down our forces, we have reduced the strain on our forces and refocused our resources on taking the fight to al Qaeda around the world," he said. PTI