Tuesday marks formal close to US Combat role in Iraq
The United States on Tuesday, August 31 at a formal ceremony in Baghdad will end its combat mission in Iraq and complete the U.S. military's transition to an advisory and training role in support of Iraqi forces. That effort is to continue until the end of next year, but there are significant questions about what happens after that. U.S. combat units recently rolled out of Iraq, bringing the number of U.S. forces below 50,000. The remaining troops are what the military calls advise and assist brigades. Their primary mission -- to help Iraqi forces become more capable of providing sophisticated security. The outgoing commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, says the Iraqis are ready, but there will still be plenty of U.S. troops available, not only for training, but also to help with emergencies. We still have capability on the ground that if we have to and the Iraqis want us to, we can help them, he said. General Odierno says the Iraqis have to improve their counterterrorism capability by the end of next year, although he concedes they will not be fully prepared even by that time.