Iraq Troop Withdrawal: Obama Marks Milestone Amid Today's Violence

Lt. Colonel Tim Karcher prepares to head into Sadr City

Four U.S. soldiers were killed in combat Monday on the eve of the pullout by American troops from Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, the U.S. military said.

The military said the four soldiers served with the Multi-National Division-Baghdad and died as a "result of combat related injuries," but did not provide further details pending notification of their families.

Meanwhile, a car bomb exploded Tuesday in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, killing 30 people and wounding nearly 90 more in a crowded market, according to medical sources in Kirkuk.

"We know that the violence in Iraq will continue," President Barack Obama said from the White House today, referencing the bombing in Kirkuk. "There are those who will test Iraq's security forces and the resolve of the Iraqi people through more sectarian bombings and the murder of innocent civilians. But I'm confident that those forces will fail. The future belongs to those who build, not those who destroy."

The attacks come as Iraqis celebrate the withdrawal of U.S. troops from 15 cities, the first milestone in a U.S.-Iraqi security agreement that calls for the departure of all U.S. troops by the end of 2011.

The president called the day a significant milestone, marking progress and responsibility for the Iraqi people. He referenced the celebration in Baghdad as a positive sign and a symbol of U.S. forces' courage in the region.

"The Iraqi people are rightly treating this day as a cause for celebration. This is an important step forward as a sovereign and united Iraq continues to take control of its own destiny," Obama said. "Iraq's future is in the hands of its own people, and Iraq's leaders must now make some hard choices necessary to resolve key political questions, to advance opportunity and to provide security for their towns and their cities."

The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, added today that while the last two weeks were marked by an increase in violent attacks, the overall numbers are still down from two years ago.

"If you compare it back to the dark days of 2006 and 2007, there's no comparison," Odierno told reporters Monday. "There is not widespread violence here in Iraq. There are points of high-profile attacks. The unfortunate part about that is… it has inflicted some high casualties on the civilian population here."

Odierno, says it's time for Iraqis to take charge and responsibility inside the cities.

"The Iraqi people want their forces to take that on," he said. "They want to see us move out of the cities. ... in the background. They're not ready for us to go yet, but they are ready for us to allow them to attempt to exercise their security responsibilities."

But some are not convinced.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, who has recently become a leading critic of the Obama administration's national security policies, applauded Odierno's work in Iraq, but said he was concerned about the withdrawal, even though it was during his time as vice president that the two countries signed the Status of Forces Agreement.

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