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Obama: I've kept my promise on Iraq

President Barack Obama is to keep a promise by making a speech declaring the end of America's combat mission in Iraq and will be wagering the wobbly Baghdad government can hold together against a still-dangerous uprising.

After taking office, the president vowed to withdraw all but 50,000 US troops by August 31, a reduction of about 90,000 forces by the end of his first 20 months in office.

American commanders reached that goal last week, the same seven-day period during which insurgent bombers and gunmen killed 50 Iraqis.

The timing of the speech appears aimed at reminding Americans of the importance of the departure from Iraq as Mr Obama's popularity is flagging, largely because of the troubled US economy.

With November congressional elections just two months away, he is looking for a foreign policy boost before voting that could see his fellow Democrats lose their majority in the House of Representatives, and, perhaps, also in the Senate.

In that light, the Iraq speech precedes by two days a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Mr Obama had pledged to make peace in the Middle East a top agenda item in the first weeks of his presidency, but progress has been halting and expectations are low for the coming new round of negotiations.

The US war in Iraq has been fraught for Mr Obama, a critic of that conflict even as he has significantly increased American firepower and troop strength in the longer, nearly nine-year fight in Afghanistan.

He opposed invading Iraq from the outset, a position seen as partially behind his victory over secretary of state Hillary Clinton in the Democratic nominating contest and his wide victory over Republican senator John McCain in the 2008 presidential vote.

Mr Obama was also a vocal opponent in the Senate when former president George Bush boosted US troop strength by thousands in 2006, an infusion of force, known as the "surge", credited with pulling the country back from the precipice of civil war.

Now, that history - combined with his administration's troubled record in pulling the country out of a catastrophic economic downturn - leaves Mr Obama in a delicate position as he celebrates the conclusion of the United States' seven-year involvement in Iraq.

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