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July 23, 09

NEWS / Obama Pledges Full Withdrawal of U.S. Forces from Iraq by 2011

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Staff Writer

Washington — Stating that the United States is in the midst of a transition to Iraqi responsibility, President Obama said all U.S. forces are on schedule to be fully withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2011.

“Violence continues to be down, and Iraqis are taking responsibility for their future,” Obama said at an afternoon press conference at the White House July 22 with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. “The success of this transition is critically important to the security and prosperity of our people, and it is a top priority of my administration.”

Obama said the United States took a critical step forward by transferring control of all Iraqi cities and towns to Iraq’s security forces. That step was outlined in a Status of Forces Agreement in 2008 and underscores U.S. commitments to the Iraqi government. And the president reiterated his pledge that “we seek no bases in Iraq, nor do we make any claim on Iraq’s territory or resources.”

The meeting between al-Maliki and Obama is their first at the White House, but the president met with al-Maliki in Baghdad in April. (See “Obama Makes Unannounced Visit to Iraq.”)

Acknowledging that “there will be some tough days ahead,” Obama said all U.S. combat brigades will be removed from Iraq by the end of August 2010 and all U.S. troops by the end of 2011. The president said he and al-Maliki have no doubt that there will be attacks on Iraqi security forces and the American troops supporting them.

The president said he is in regular communication with U.S. military leaders in Iraq and the reports have been “extremely positive about the progress that has been made.”

Obama said he has made a strong commitment to work with Iraq to get the United Nations to lift sanctions it imposed on the country following the 1991 Gulf War. “I think it would be a mistake for Iraq to continue to be burdened by the sins of a deposed dictator,” Obama said.

“President Obama and the American administration agree with us that Iraq is no longer representing a threat to international peace and security because there is a democracy in Iraq, not a dictatorship,” al-Maliki said. Iraq, al-Maliki added, is looking for a constructive and positive relationship with its neighbors and the international community.

The sanctions were imposed during the regime of Saddam Hussein and require that Iraq pay 5 percent of its oil revenues for war reparations.



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