President Obama campaigned on the notion that he would end the war in Iraq. He first promised his base to end combat operations there by Aug 31, 2010, at a speech to Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, a month after taking office.
"Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end," Obama told Marines on February 27, 2009. He reiterated that promise again last week in a nationwide address in his administration's equivalent of a "mission accomplished" speech.
"Tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country," the president said from the Oval office.
But already U.S. troops have had to fire their weapons, coming to the aid and rescue of Iraqi security forces, when six suicide bombers attacked an Iraqi military base in downtown Baghdad on Sunday. And on Tuesday, two U.S. soldiers were killed in Northern Iraq.
The Pentagon and White House call the 50,000 troops left in Iraq "Advise and Assist Brigades". They are essentially Brigade Combat teams by another name. Even members of the 1-30th Infantry regiment, now based in Northern Iraq, note how the new Pentagon-ease moniker may not fit.
"We've actually been training to be a combat brigade the entire year ...Our entire mission, with the Iraqi forces, is to help them conduct operations including combat," Lt. Ryan Bartowski, Platoon Leader, 1-30th infantry regiment told Fox News' Dominic DiNatale in Kirkuk.
News cameras were rolling as the Pentagon and White House hailed the so-called last combat brigade's departure from Iraq and crossing into Kuwait before the end of August. The Army's 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Lewis, Washington, left for home but other Stryker brigades, including the 2nd Stryker Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division remain behind.
All of this begging the question as to whether this transition to "advise and assist" the Iraqi military is merely an exercise in semantics designed to placate Democratic voters ahead of this fall's midterm elections.