US Marines out of Iraq by spring 2010 The US Marines will withdraw from Iraq in the spring of 2010, the commandant of the elite force said Thursday, signaling the end of a mission that once faced a fierce Sunni insurgency.
"We think that in the spring of 2010 we'll close the door and turned out the lights to Marine Corps presence in Iraq," said General James Conway in a speech at the National Press Club. The date is in line with the schedule set by President Barack Obama, who in February ordered the withdrawal of all US combat troops from the country by the end of August 2010 with the rest of the force coming out by the end of 2011. Conway said there are currently 16,000 marines in Iraq and that the reduction of the force would accelerate after legislative elections scheduled for January 2010. He played down a resurgence of violence in Iraq in recent weeks, but acknowledged a residual Al-Qaeda presence in some areas. Al Qaeda, he said, was "trying to get back where they were in some places, get back to the former strength that they had. But I think the country is tired of the fighting." In January, just after Obama's inauguration, Conway had said the Marines would be ready to leave Iraq in six to eight months in order to shift their efforts toward Afghanistan. He expressed regret at the time that the marines, who are based mainly in Iraq's once violent Anbar province, has become a garrison force focused on reconstruction. "That's not our role," he said On the subject of having marines in both Afghanistan and Iraq, Conway said, "2009 will be a tough year because we now have a foot in both camps."