Updated at 4:01 p.m. EST, Feb. 27, 2009
The official plans for a U.S. drawdown in Iraq were announced this morning, just as the military revealed that enemy fire brought down two U.S. helicopters last month, and President Obama announced his new ambassador to the country. One U.S. soldier died yesterday in Baghdad. Otherwise, the prayer day was fairly quiet. At least five Iraqis were killed and four more were wounded in the latest attacks.
U.S. President Barack Obama spoke to the American people this morning. In his speech, he described a 19-month timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from across Iraq. The risks of a speedy withdrawal could have weighed heavily in the president’s decision to break his presidential campaign promise.The August 2010 date is three months later than promised and also allows up to 50,000 servicemen to remain behind in support roles. The president briefed both former U.S. President George Bush and current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Republican candidate for president, Sen. John McCain praised the change in President Obama’s plans.
Most combat troops will have left Iraqi cities by June of this year as agreed to in a U.S.-Iraqi SOFA pact that was signed last year. Some will remain in support positions; however, the SOFA pact calls for the removal of all troops by the end of 2011, unless the current administration renegotiates with the Iraqis. Defense Secrety Robert Gates is pleased with the plan, but he would also like some troops to remain after the SOFA deadline. The president also reassured Iraq that the U.S. has no territorial claims. Back in Iraq, there was mixed reaction to the plan.
U.S. officials admitted that enemy fire brought down two helicopters in northern Iraq last month. Four Americans were killed in the crash. At first the military believed that the crash was accidental, but a subsequent investigation revealed that the helicopters had been evading enemy fire when they collided. Yesterday, a U.S. soldier died from wounds received during combat in Baghdad. Also, a U.S. military vehicle struck an I.E.D. near Amara, but no casualties were reported.
Gunmen staged a small arms attack on an Awakening Council (Sahwa) checkpoint in Hawija. Two Sahwa members were killed and another two were wounded.
A body bearing gunshot wounds was discovered in Tal Keef.
A body bearing gunshot wounds was found near Saidiya.
A body bearing torture marks was fished out of a river in Suwayra. The irrigation systmem in Suwayra often catches bodies that float down river from miles away.
Also, a Turkish military spokesman said that about 20 Kurdish rebels killed each other during infighting in northern Iraq. The area in question is sparsely population, so any reports coming from there are often subject to inaccuracies and can be filled with propaganda from either side.
Compiled by Margaret Griffis