U.S. role in Afghanistan shifting

US President Barack Obama has
confirmed that all American combat troops will withdraw from Iraq by the end of
this month.

Speaking at the national convention
of the Disabled American Veterans in Atlanta, he said the 31 August deadline
for withdrawal of combat troops will be met.

“Make no mistake, our
commitment in Iraq is changing from a military effort led by our troops to a
civilian effort led by our diplomats,” he said.

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

A transitional force of 50,000
soldiers will remain to train Iraqi security forces, conduct counterterrorism
operations and provide security for ongoing US civilian efforts, Mr Obama said.

 A sharp increase in deadly attacks in July has
raised concern that insurgents are trying to exploit the political vacuum in
Baghdad to sow sectarian strife.

Iraqi government figures show the
number of civilians killed by bomb blasts and other violence nearly doubled in
July, though violence has fallen sharply from its peak levels of a few years
ago.

While the number of soldiers in
Iraq decreases, America has increased its commitment in Afghanistan, ordering a
surge of 30,000 additional troops.

But with casualties on the rise,
there are fresh concerns about the nine-year-old mission there.

The president plans to begin
withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in July 2011, a timetable that critics say
will embolden the Taliban.

“We face huge challenges in
Afghanistan,” the president said. “But it’s important that the American
people know we are making progress and we’re focused on goals that are clear
and achievable.”

Facing a potential loss of public
and congressional support for the Afghanistan war, the White House is painting
the US mission there as humble and achievable.

“What we’re looking to do is
difficult, very difficult, but it’s a fairly modest goal,” President Obama
said.

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