‘US on track for Iraq withdrawal’


Washington : The US military remains on track for ending combat operations in Iraq by the end of this month, the White House said Wednesday after President Barack Obama held a meeting with key advisors.

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“Nothing was brought up with the president that would necessitate us needing to turn back,” spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Obama met with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defence Secretary Robert Gates and via videoconference with General Ray Odierno, the top commander of US forces in Iraq.

Obama plans to end the US combat role by the end of August, which would bring the US presence there to about 50,000. All US forces are slated to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.

Aug 31 will mark a shift of the US role from military to civilian as the US embassy will oversee the training of Iraqi security forces with the help of the remaining soldiers. Other soldiers staying behind will assist with counterterrorism operations.

However, there are concerns in the Obama administration that the congressional cuts in the State Department’s budget for Iraq could hinder the effort as the military departs, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

House and Senate committees have already cut the State Department request of 1.8 billion for operations in Iraq for fiscal 2011, which begins Oct 1. The State Department is trying to restore the funding and has signalled a need for an additional $400 million on top of the initial request.