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General: Obama Should Avoid "Mission Accomplished" Moment in Iraq

Retired Brigadier General Anthony Tata said on CBS' "The Early Show" this morning that President Obama should not to let the withdrawal of the final combat brigade from Iraq be "his 'mission accomplished' moment."

Tata's reference is to President George W. Bush's appearance on the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1st, 2003 in front of a banner that read "Mission Accomplished." The then-president would later be widely criticized for participating in the photo-op, which was meant to herald the end of major combat operations in Iraq.

While the last U.S. combat brigade left Iraq yesterday, the combat mission in Iraq will not end until the end of this month, when an additional 6,000 combat troops depart. After that, about 50,000 U.S. "non-combat" troops are set to remain in the region through the end of 2011. And while the U.S. mission will shift from a military to a civilian-led effort, the "non-combat" troops will be combat capable and some will engage in targeted counterterrorism operations.

In addition, more American citizens will remain in the country as contractors, many of whom will train Iraqi police. And violence remains a significant problem, most recently in the form of car bombing killing 61 people two days ago.

"There's still combat going on," Tata said on "The Early Show," though he maintained that the U.S. military is transitioning into a support role. "These troops will be in direct conflict with the enemy."

U.S. Army soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division race toward the border from Iraq into Kuwait Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2010. The soldiers are part of the last combat brigade to leave Iraq as part of the drawdown of U.S. forces. (AP Photo/ Maya Alleruzzo

CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor asked Tata about how ready the Iraqi police are ready to take security control of their country.

"I think between the Iraqi military and the Iraqi police, the Iraqi military is more ready and capable than the Iraqi police," the general responded. "And so, that's why you're going to see this emphasis on training the Iraqi police so that they can get into the streets and begin the business of policing the citizens of Iraq just like our police forces do here, to protect and serve. And the Iraqi military will then provide larger security against regional threats."

Earlier on "The Early Show," U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza told Harry Smith that Iraqi soldiers and police are showing a "commitment to abide by the Iraqi constitution."

"They have shown they can secure the country for the election," he argued, lauding "the will, the professionalism and the ethos" they have shown.

In a message to the White House email list yesterday, Mr. Obama marked what he called a "milestone in the Iraq war."

"Today, I'm pleased to report that -- thanks to the extraordinary service of our troops and civilians in Iraq -- our combat mission will end this month, and we will complete a substantial drawdown of our troops," he wrote.

"Over the last 18 months, over 90,000 U.S. troops have left Iraq," noted the president. "By the end of this month, 50,000 troops will be serving in Iraq. As Iraqi Security Forces take responsibility for securing their country, our troops will move to an advise-and-assist role. And, consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all of our troops will be out of Iraq by the end of next year. Meanwhile, we will continue to build a strong partnership with the Iraqi people with an increased civilian commitment and diplomatic effort."

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