DECLARATIONS

The End of Combat Operations

Today President Obama made official his first major change to military engagement: combat operations in Iraq will end by the end of next summer. "I have chosen a timeline that will remove our combat brigades over the next 18 months. Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end," he told Marines at North Carolina's Camp Lejeune. From that point, 35,000 to 50,000 troops will remain on the ground to support Iraqi forces, work on counterterrorism goals, and aid reconstruction efforts. Obama explained: "I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home with the honor that they have earned." Former rival John McCain has embraced the plan, while Obama's fellow Democrats have questioned whether too many troops remain.