US President Barack Obama was to mark the formal end of the US
combat role in Iraq with a visit Tuesday to a Texas military base
and a major evening televised address.
Obama is expected to hail the transition to an Iraqi-led,
civilian-led effort as a major milestone in the seven-year US war
effort. White House officials said he will pledge that the handover
will not end the US commitment to Iraq and its security.
Iraqis "will write the next chapter in Iraqi history, and they will
principally be responsible for it," White House spokesman Robert
Gibbs said Monday. "We will be their ally."
Vice President Joe Biden made a surprise visit Monday to Iraq to
commemorate the transition and meet with political leaders, hoping
to help break a deadlock that has existed between Iraq's main
parties since the March 7 election.
The political infighting and a rise in violence in recent weeks has
sparked concerns over the fate of Iraq as US combat forces leave the
US General Ray Odierno, who Wednesday will hand over command of US
forces in Iraq to Lieutenant General Lloyd Austin, said this week
that the political crisis could erode trust in the democratic
"What I don't want is for them to lose faith in the system, the
democratic system, and that's the long-term risk, do they lose faith
in the process," Odierno told The New York Times.
Obama is scheduled to speak at 8 p.m. (0000 GMT Wednesday) from the
Oval Office in the White House, after meeting earlier in the day
with US Army troops at Fort Bliss, Texas.
Obama had set Aug 31 as the deadline for withdrawing combat forces,
which was completed 11 days early, as part of his long-promised plan
to shift focus to the conflict in Afghanistan.
Fewer than 50,000 troops remain in Iraq, as more than 94,000 US
soldiers have left since Obama took office in January 2009.
The remaining troops are staying behind to continue training Iraqi
security forces and assist in counterterrorism operations. They are
due to leave by the end of 2011.
The State Department will be taking the lead from the US military
Wednesday. The new mission in Iraq will be called "New Dawn".