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    Obama announces US troop withdrawal from Iraq

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    ODN

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    President Barack Obama has declared an end to the seven-year US combat mission in Iraq and told war-weary Americans "our central mission as a people" is to restore the sagging US economy.


    Obama, who inherited the war from President George W. Bush and is fighting another in Afghanistan, said he had fulfilled a 2008 campaign promise to end US combat operations in Iraq.


    After seven years of bloodshed that has brought sacrifice from Americans and Iraqis and consumed vast resources from tight budgets, Obama said: "Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country."


    Obama hailed the removal of all but 50,000 US troops, who will have a training and advisory role, saying: "This was my pledge to the American people as a candidate for this office."


    Almost a trillion dollars have been spent and at least 100,000 Iraqi civilians and more than 4,400 US soldiers have been killed since the 2003 invasion. A recent poll found 72 per cent of Americans now believe the war was not worth the loss of American lives.


    The White House wanted to avoid any comparisons between Obama's speech and the May 2003 speech by Bush when he declared major combat operations over in Iraq in front of a "Mission Accomplished" banner, only to see violence skyrocket in the months and years afterward.


    Bush launched the war over suspicions that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons were found.


    Obama has promised to pull all US troops out of Iraq by the end of 2011.