U.S. reduces troop presence in Iraq to 50,000

WASHINGTON - The United States has completed the drawdown of its forces to Iraq to 50,000 ahead of the scheduled Aug. 31 date, a senior administration official said on Wednesday.

By (Reuters)

Published: Thu 19 Aug 2010, 8:38 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 5:49 AM

He added the combat mission was not yet over and would continue until Aug. 31.

“We have drawn down to 50,000, but to be clear, the mission changes on the 31st, when brigades that are left are re-missioned to advise-and-assist brigades,” a senior Obama administration said.

The Pentagon has said the remaining 50,000 troops will also continue to train Iraqi armed forces and police units.

NBC News reported that the last U.S. combat troops had left Iraq and crossed the border into Kuwait, more than seven years after a U.S.-led invasion toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

An NBC reporter traveling with the convoy said the troops from the 4th Stryker Brigade drove through the night and arrived in Kuwait just before 4 a.m. local time, with TV footage showing the convoy rolling through the border gates and the gate shutting as the last vehicle passed through.

Administration officials said the NBC report was premature. The official said it had never been the U.S. intention to wait until Aug. 31 to remove the last troops scheduled for the drawdown.

As a presidential candidate, President Barack Obama campaigned to end the war responsibly, and as president he has been explicit in his assurances to Americans that not a single U.S. service member will remain in Iraq come Jan. 1, 2012.

While violence has dipped sharply since the height of sectarian warfare from 2006-2007, Iraq is still extremely fragile and its leaders have not resolved a number of politically explosive issues that could easily trigger renewed fighting.

The war in Iraq has gone on longer than the U.S. Civil War, World War One and World War Two. Opinion polls show Americans are tired of nearly a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As of Wednesday, the Defense Department said there were 4,419 U.S. military deaths since the Iraq invasion.

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