US troops in Iraq drop below 50,000
The U.S. military says the number of its troops in Iraq is now less than 50,000 -- the lowest level since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.
The announcement comes ahead of an August 31st deadline to switch the US mission in Iraq from combat to to advice and assistance.
President Barack Obama had promised the lower levels shortly after taking office. He also reaffirmed a prior agreement to remove all U.S. troops by the end of next year.
But the terms appear to be somewhat fluid. US troops were still manning key positions in Baghdad this year, long after the June 2009 announcement they had withdrawn for Iraqi cities.
Tuesday's announcement coincides with Iraq's continued struggle to form a new government, five months after inconclusive elections. A recent increase in violence has raised fears that the drawdown, along with the political vacuum, could further embolden insurgents.VOANews