WASHINGTONPresident Obama gave himself a hand Monday for fulfilling a campaign promise to get U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this month.

“I made it clear that by Aug. 31, 2010, America’s combat mission in Iraq would end,” Obama told a Disabled American Veterans convention in Atlanta. “And that is exactly what we are doing – as promised and on schedule.”

Tens of thousands of U.S. troops have been withdrawn from a peak of 140,000 since 2009, with the goal of leaving behind 50,000 support and training troops by the end of August.

“By the end of this month, we’ll have brought more than 90,000 of our troops home from Iraq since I took office,” Obama said.

His timetable calls for the remaining U.S. troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.

White House officials trumpeted Obama’s success in dialing down the nearly $1 trillion war, which comes after already delivering on health care reform and Wall Street reform.

“The message is that when the President makes a commitment, he keeps it,” said deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton.

Republicans, who lashed out over the health care and financial regulation laws, complained that Obama was benefiting from a strategy formed under former President George W. Bush.

They credited Bush’s troop surge in Iraq that helped U.S. and allied forces subdue the insurgents, making a reduced American role possible. Obama was among those who opposed the surge strategy while he was in the Senate and a presidential candidate.

“Despite what many politicians continue to say, the success of the surge strategy put in place by Gens. [David] Petraeus and [Ray] Odierno is undeniable,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio). “Despite many difficult debates in 2007 and 2008, Republicans stood on principle against the irresponsible plans put forth by congressional Democrats to withdraw all our troops and leave Iraq in chaos.”

At least 4,413 U.S. troops have been killed since the start of the Iraq war in March 2003, and more than 31,500 have been wounded.

While Obama has reduced forces in Iraq, more troops have been sent to Afghanistan to try to turn the tide of the nine-year war against the Taliban and its Al Qaeda allies.


Iraq Vulnerable To Influence From Other Countries


Now for a big picture view on the challenges ahead in Iraq, we invited the head of the U.N. mission in Baghdad, Ad Melkert, to stop by our studios. I asked whether he’s comfortable with the timetable for the American withdrawal.

Mr. AD MELKERT (Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General, Baghdad): Well, that’s not up to the U.N., because that is really up to the Iraqi government in a bilateral agreement with the U.S. The question is how the country’s going to deal with it. The Iraqi security forces have certainly increased their effectiveness. They’ve received a lot of training and support. It’s more and more Iraqi business when one looks at the politics, the economy, the security, and that’s going to define the situation in the years ahead. (more…)