Iraqis: Wrong time for US withdrawal
Baghdad – The majority of Iraqis believe it was the wrong time for a major withdrawal of US combat troops, a poll said on Tuesday, with more than half also warning that it would have negative consequences.
When asked if it was the right time for American soldiers to leave, the US military earlier confirmed troop numbers in Iraq had fallen under 50 000 for the first time, 59.8% said 'no', compared to 39.5% who said 'yes'.
Some 53.1% of respondents said they disagreed with US President Barack Obama's decision last year to end the combat mission in Iraq on August 31, a move that triggered a major reduction in the US military presence here.
However, 46.2% of those questioned agreed with the decision.
In other questions, 51% said the withdrawal would have a negative effect, compared to 25.8% who said it would be positive.
Obama pledged to end operations
Shortly after coming into office in 2009, Obama pledged to end combat operations in Iraq by the end of this month, bringing Operation Iraqi Freedom to an end, at which point troop figures would drop below 50 000.
Asked if they thought Obama cared about the situation in Iraq, 41.9% of those surveyed said 'no', compared to the 39.8% who said 'yes'. Some 15.5% said they do not know.
The top US commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, said on Tuesday that around 49 700 soldiers are now stationed in the country. "It will stay at that level through next summer," he said in Baghdad.
All US soldiers are due to leave Iraq by the end of next year, under a bilateral security agreement signed by Washington and Baghdad in November 2008.
The poll carried out by the Asharq Research Centre, a private Iraqi company, was a representative nationwide sample of 1 150 people aged 18 and above in the country's 18 provinces between August 15 to 23.