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

However, both the United States and Iraq agreed that large American bases inside Baghdad and Mosul, like the sprawling facility in western Baghdad known as Camp Victory, would be exempted from the agreement, given their large size and their importance to the overall security mission in Iraq.

The troop drawdown in Iraq won't pick up momentum until next year because Odierno wants to have enough troops on hand to provide security for the all-important Iraqi national elections to be held this coming January.

There are 133,000 U.S. troops currently in Iraq, and will likely be 120,000 to 125,000 by year's end to provide security for the election.

After the election, the U.S. drawdown will begin in earnest. By August 2010, the number of troops is supposed to be cut by almost 70,000 to meet the reduced force level that will remain as trainers.

The accelerated drawdown next year will pose major logistical challenges for a military that has accumulated a large amount of equipment and facilities in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in 2003.

Though U.S. military leaders were confident of meeting the deadline as late as this April, senior military commanders, like Odierno, had expressed reservations about whether a pullout might be feasible from the restive northern city of Mosul, given the strong insurgency there that contributed to continuing high levels of violence.

But Odierno said that the decision to proceed was made easier by violence levels in May that were the "lowest level of incidents we've ever had on record in Iraq," a trend that has continued through June despite several high-profile attacks this past week.

"I would just say, though, there's still going to be bumps in the road," Odierno said. "There's still going to be violence here. There's still going to be some problems."

The general said that the attacks, especially those instigated by al Qaeda in Iraq, have turned the Iraqi population against insurgents, which will make it more difficult for them to operate in the future.

"I believe that's going to backfire on them over time," the general said. "They've really raised the ire of the Iraqi citizens."

Despite words of hope and the jubilation among Iraqis and the confidence of U.S. commanders, U.S. troops know their work is not yet finished and more sacrifices lie ahead.

Lt. Colonel Tim Karcher, a father of three who just 10 days ago handed over command of Sadr City -- one of Baghdad's most violent neighborhoods -- to Iraqis, lost both his legs and is struggling for his life after a bomb shattered his vehicle just days ago.

Karcher is still at Landstuhl, a medical center in Germany, but his wife Alesia told ABC News he is expected to arrive at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., this weekend.

"I don't know what is in store for him, but I know he will use this to do something good. I expect he will be using prosthetics and running and doing whatever his heart desires," said his wife of 19 years. "He is the most wonderful person I have ever met...He is strong and the only thing that is going to make him upset when he wakes up is that he is not with his soldiers."

As a senior official told ABC News: "This war continues."

ABC's Aadel Rashid in Baghdad, ABC's Yunji de Nies at the White House and The Associated Press contributed to the reporting of this story.

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