Barack Obama reiterated today that all U.S. troops will be removed from Iraq by the end of 2011, in spite of intense and widespread violence surrounding today's vote for the second full-term parliament since the U.S. invasion in 2003. Mortar rounds and bombs set off near polling stations — an effort to scare off voters — killed 38 today.
Obama commended Iraqis who came out to vote in spite of the violence, calling today's election an "important milestone."
"As expected, there were some incidents of violence as al Qaeda in Iraq and other extremists tried to disrupt Iraq's progress by murdering innocent Iraqis who were exercising their democratic rights," Obama told reporters at the White House today, “ "But overall the level of security and the prevention of destabilizing attacks speaks to the growing capability and professionalism of Iraqi security forces, which took the lead in providing protection at the polls.”
The president said he believes that Iraqi forces will be equipped to take over in the country, allowing for the full U.S. troop removal in the recently rebranded operation.
"We will continue to advise and assist Iraqi security forces, carry out targeted counterterrorism operations with our Iraqi partners and protect our forces and civilians. And by the end of the next year, all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq," he said.