At the beginning of his presidency, President Obama pledged to cease combat operations in Iraq by August 31st, 2010. As we near that deadline, Obama seems on track to keep his promise. By the end of this month, combat operations will cease, and only 50,000 support troops will remain in Iraq. By the end of 2011, the president says, they will all come home.
September 1st will represent a promise fulfilled for Obama. However, the deadline is unfolding differently in Iraq. The leadership structure in Iraq is still uncertain, and violence in the streets remains commonplace. Roadside bombs, helicopter crashes, stray bullets and silenced guns claimed hundreds of Iraqi lives in July, making it one of the deadliest months since 2008.
Is this a country ready for a handoff? We ask that question of Jane Arraf, a reporter in Baghdad for the Christian Science Monitor, and Joost Hiltermann, an Iraq analyst with the International Crisis Group.