Operation New Dawn
While campaigning in public for a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Sen. Barack Obama tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence. According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama made his demand for delay a key theme of his discussions with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July 2008. Zebari said in an interview, "He [Obama] asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the U.S. elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington." Obama insisted that Congress should be involved in negotiations on the status of US troops - and that it was in the interests of both sides not to have an agreement negotiated by the Bush administration in its "state of weakness and political confusion."
Effective 1 September 2010, the US mission in Iraq was renamed from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn to coincide with US forces' shift to an advisory, assistance, training, and equipping role. Secretary Robert Gates at a press conference in Iraq on 1 September 2010 said he would not consider the United States still at war in Iraq. He said: "Combat operations have ceased. We are still going to work with the Iraqis on counterterrorism. We're still doing a lot of training and advising and assisting...I would say we've moved into the final phase of our engagement in Iraq." Operation New Dawn was expected to end in late 2011.
Fewer than 50,000 U.S. troops were to remain in Iraq until the mission was officially ended. They were to serve in an advise-and-assist role for Iraqi security forces, while civilian diplomats guide Iraq's government. Lieutenant General Lloyd Austin formally replaced General Raymond Odierno as the top commander in Iraq as part of the change in mission. Troop levels in Iraq had peaked during Operation Iraqi Freedom at around 170,000 in 2007, at the height of the troop surge. More than 4,400 U.S. troops, as well as another 300 coalition servicemembers had lost their lives to combat in Iraq as of September 2010.
With the end of the combat mission, US troops were to focus on the advise-and-assist role, but would retain some limited partnerships in the counterinsurgency mission. Under the stability mission, Soldiers would work side-by-side with Iraqi soldiers, police and governmental leaders to ensure the Iraqis had the capabilities to succeed. As of 2 September 2010, US troops were working with 660,000 Iraqi soldiers and police to provide necessary muscle to defend their provinces and protect their people. Immediately before the change in operation, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on 31 August 2010, said his country's security forces were ready to assume full responsibility of keeping Iraq and its citizens safe.
The handover to Iraqi troops for the security mission was most evident as American military bases were closed and operations consolidated. In Iraq, by September 2010, military bases had been reduced from 500 to 92 as part of the troop reductions and wrapping up the mission there. Remaining bases, called combined security locations, were strategically located, facilitating operations conducted by Iraqi troops and police.
The change from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn also did not affect combat and other hazardous-duty entitlements troops serving in Iraq were to receive. Servicemembers deployed to Iraq would still receive hostile fire/imminent danger pay, hardship-duty pay, and incidental expenses. Some troops would qualify for family separation allowances. Also, all pay for warrant officers and enlisted members was tax exempt, while officers were exempt from taxes for up to $7,611.30 each month they served in an eligible area.
In a ceremony on 15 December 2011, the colors of US Forces-Iraq were formally cased, marking the formal end of military operations in Iraq. Nearly 4,500 service members had died and more than 30,000 were wounded during both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. The official casualty report for 15 December 2011, stated that that there had been 66 total deaths during Operation New Dawn, of which 38 were the result of enemy action up to that point. Another 305 individuals had been wounded during Operation New Dawn as of 15 December 2011.
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