3:01 am - February 25th 2009
President Barack Obama plans to remove all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by August of next year, administration officials said Tuesday, ending the war that helped define his upstart presidential campaign _ although a little more slowly than he promised.
The withdrawal plan _ an announcement could come as early as this week _ could help Obama turn his attention to another campaign pledge: Deploying more troops to Afghanistan, a region he calls the central front in the war on terrorism.
The timetable is a compromise. Removing so many people and tons of equipment presents logistical difficulties. Some commanders and advisers worry that security gains could backslide in Iraq if troops are brought out too soon, while others think the bulk of U.S. combat work is long since done.
Obama expects to leave a large contingent of troops in Iraq, between 30,000 and 50,000 troops, after August, 2010 to advise and train Iraqi security forces and to protect U.S. interests, according to two administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan has not been made public. The contingent will include intelligence and surveillance specialists and their equipment, such as unmanned aircraft.
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