US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday assured Iraq that the Obama administration would not abandon the country even as it presses ahead with plans to withdraw American troops amid a recent surge in violence.
Clinton, on an unannounced trip to Baghdad, said the drawdown would be handled in a "responsible and careful way" and would not affect efforts to improve the professionalism of Iraq's security forces or reconstruction and development projects that are to be expanded.
But she stressed that Iraqis themselves particularly within the security forces would have to come together and overcome sectarian and other differences if they are to build a united, secure nation.
"Let me assure you and repeat what President Obama said, we are committed to Iraq, we want to see a stable, sovereign, self-reliant Iraq," she told a nervous but receptive crowd at a town hall meeting at the US Embassy in Baghdad.
"We are very committed, but the nature of our commitment may look somewhat different because we are going to be withdrawing our combat troops over the next couple of years," Clinton said.
Making her first trip to Iraq as America's top diplomat, Clinton said the country has made great strides despite an explosion in violence that killed at least 159 people on Thursday and Friday.