America

Last U.S. Army 'Combat' Brigade Leaves Iraq, Ahead of President Obama's Deadline

One of the last Stryker armored vehicles to leave Iraq crosses the border into Kuwait. i

U.S. Army Sgt. Jason Thompson, left, and Lt. Col. Nate Flegler, right, wave to one of the last Stryker armored vehicles to leave Iraq as it crosses the border into Kuwait at the Khabari border crossing. Maya Alleruzzo/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Maya Alleruzzo/AP
One of the last Stryker armored vehicles to leave Iraq crosses the border into Kuwait.

U.S. Army Sgt. Jason Thompson, left, and Lt. Col. Nate Flegler, right, wave to one of the last Stryker armored vehicles to leave Iraq as it crosses the border into Kuwait at the Khabari border crossing.

Maya Alleruzzo/AP

Good morning. The last full U.S. combat brigade has left Iraq — ahead of President Obama's end-of-the-month deadline for ending combat operations there.

— "Operation Iraqi Freedom ends as last combat soldiers leave Baghdad," The Washington Post

"The 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which left Iraq this week, was the final U.S. combat brigade to be pulled out of the country, fulfilling the Obama administration's pledge to end the U.S. combat mission by the end of August," Ernesto Lodono reports. "About 50,000 U.S. troops will remain in Iraq, mainly as a training force."

— "Civilians to Take U.S. Lead After Military Leaves Iraq," The New York Times

Reporter Michael R. Gordon assesses what will happen next: "...the Obama is planning a remarkable civilian effort, buttressed by a small army of contractors, to fill the void."

By October 2011, the State Department will assume responsibility for training the Iraqi police, a task that will largely be carried out by contractors. With no American soldiers to defuse sectarian tensions in northern Iraq, it will be up to American diplomats in two new $100 million outposts to head off potential confrontations between the Iraqi Army and Kurdish pesh merga forces.

To protect the civilians in a country that is still home to insurgents with Al Qaeda and Iranian-backed militias, the State Department is planning to more than double its private security guards, up to as many as 7,000, according to administration officials who disclosed new details of the plan.

Other stories in the news...

— "Troubles mount for egg firm," Des Moines Register

Wright County Egg, "the Iowa livestock industry giant that's being blamed for a multistate salmonella outbreak linked to its eggs has a long history of environmental, immigration and labor violations," Philip Brasher reports. "A recall first announced last week was expanded Wednesday to 380 million eggs — the equivalent of nearly 32 million dozen-egg cartons."

Hundreds of people have been sickened in a salmonella outbreak linked to eggs in three states and possibly more.

Yesterday, the president traveled to Ohio and Florida, to rally support for his administration's agenda and Democratic candidates. In Ohio, he spent several minutes conversing with a family over breakfast, then talked to more voters in the backyard.

— "Obama: U.S. on 'right track': Message for Columbus upbeat, but Democrats urged to hold off GOP," The Columbus Dispatch

According to Mark Niquette and Joe Hallett, "With his job-approval numbers flagging, Obama returned to the battleground state he won handily in 2008 to convince voters that his economic policies are beginning to pay dividends in the form of new jobs and to exhort Democrats to turn back an expected GOP juggernaut at the Nov. 2 midterm election."

Also worth reading: "What's it like to have the president at your home?"

Joe Weithman says it didn't really hit him until he looked through the mini blinds in his living room and saw the presidential motorcade coming up E. Kanawha Avenue.

"It's like, 'Holy crap, he's really coming,'" Weithman said. "He's going to walk through that door in like 30 seconds."

— "Obama raises $700K for Democrats, visits Miami Beach deli," The Miami Herald

"President Barack Obama swooped into Florida for less than three hours Wednesday to pick up $700,000 for the Florida Democratic Party, and two corned-beef sandwiches on rye from a Miami Beach deli — to go," Beth Reinhard reports. "Obama's unannounced stop at Jerry's Famous Deli brought crowds streaming onto Collins Avenue and allowed him to give an extra backslap to Democratic Senate candidate Kendrick Meek, who joined him at the deli counter."

As federal prosecutors prepare to make their case for a retrial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, there is more news about jury deliberations:

— "Holdout stoked tension on Blagojevich jury," The Chicago Tribune

According to The Tribune, "John Grover, 52, a juror from Joliet, said he grew so frustrated after three days of deliberating on the same charge that he yelled at the woman who refused to join the other 11 in agreeing to convict."

"I gave her a piece of my mind," Grover said. "If it wasn't for that one lady, we'd have had him convicted on probably 80 percent of (the indictment)."

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