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Turning The Page In Iraq

With combat operations in Iraq drawing to an end on August 31, Vice President Biden traveled to Ft. Drum to welcome home troops.

Come September 1st, the U.S.' presence in Iraq will be one of diplomacy rather than security.

On August 19th, the last U.S. combat brigade left Iraq, ending a 7 year military operation that toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein.

"As a candidate for President," said President Barack Obama, "I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end. Shortly after taking office, I announced our new strategy for Iraq and for a transition to full Iraqi responsibility. And I made it clear that by August 31st, 2010 America’s combat mission in Iraq would end. And that is exactly what we are doing — as promised, on schedule," he said

6 months ago, more than 140,000 troops were stationed in Iraq. By the end of August, there will be fewer than 50,000, none of them serving in a combat capacity. And under an agreement between the U.S. and Iraq, those 50,000 U.S. troops still will leave Iraq by December 2011. But in the meantime, said Major General Stephen Lanza, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, these units will tackle the important job of conducting stability operations and assisting the Iraqi security forces during counterterrorism operations.

Beginning on September 1st, the responsibility for U.S. operations in Iraq will pass from the U.S. military to the Department of State, from soldiers to diplomats. Much of the security will be directed by the bureau of diplomatic security.

Eventually, the Department of State will also be in charge of training the Iraqi police force. The program, said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Colin Kahl, has been set up with Iraqi input and will help Iraqi police officers develop the skills to move from counterinsurgency operations to crime solving.

So, the U.S. mission in Iraq is changing, said Deputy White House Spokesman Bill Burton. "There will be a change in command and you’ll see the United States move to a new role, which is advising and assisting the Iraqi security forces."

"More importantly," said Major General Lanza, "our mission here will allow Iraq not only to grow as a country, but also to expand their security, and also economic development throughout the region, which is extremely important."