1 Sep 2010

US ends combat operations in Iraq

10:38 pm on 1 September 2010

President Barack Obama has formally declared the end of United States combat operations in Iraq, saying it is time to concentrate on restoring the American economy.

The US formally ended its involvement in combat operations in Iraq on Wednesday, leaving about 50,000 American troops there until the end of next year in what is being called an advisory and assistance role.

About 1.5 million Americans have served in Iraq since the US-led invasion began in 2003, and more than 4,000 have been killed.

In only his second nationally televised speech from the Oval Office of the White House, Mr Obama said he was awed by the sacrifice of the US military, but that the America now has to look towards its own future, the BBC reports.

Mr Obama said his country has paid a huge price to put the future of Iraq in the hands of its own people.

Speaking of his predecessor who launched the war, Mr Obama said no one could doubt President George W Bush's love of country or commitment to security.

However, he said that America's strength and influence abroad must be firmly anchored in prosperity at home.

War had cost more than $US1 trillion - often financed by overseas borrowing. This, Mr Obama said, had short-changed investments in the American people and contributed to record deficits. Restoring the economy was now his central responsibility.

Mr Obama said the US would continue to support Iraq's government and its people.

US toll in Afghanistan

The number of US soldiers killed in the Afghan war is reported to have reached its highest annual toll since the conflict began almost nine years ago.

The icasualties.org website, which keeps a running tally, says a total of 323 American soldiers have died, compared with 317 in 2009, AFP reports.

The tally shows the total number of foreign troops killed in the war in 2009 is 521, compared with 490 so far this year.

Our forces can do the job - Iraqi PM

In his own televised address in Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki said that his country is now sovereign and independent and that its security forces will deal with all threats, domestic or otherwise.

Mr al Malaki described those who say Iraq cannot survive without the Americans as enemies of the nation.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari says, however, that the circumstances of the withdrawal are not ideal.

Violence in Iraq is down from the peak it hit during sectarian conflict in 2006-07, although almost daily attacks on Iraqi forces and police killed more than 85 people in the first three weeks of August.