Troops hope Obama brings them home responsibly

BAGHDAD, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Watching election results that showed Barack Obama would be their new commander-in-chief, U.S. soldiers in Iraq said they hoped he would fulfil his promise to bring them home quickly and responsibly.

Breakfast was already being served in Baghdad on Wednesday morning when Tuesday's polls closed back home, and at Forward Operating Base Prosperity all eyes in the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne were on the dining hall's giant TVs.

Someone whooped when NBC called the election, but mostly the troops sat in rapt silence, eyeing their new president while eating their eggs.

"What soldier's going to say they don't want to go home? I have a wife and four kids. I want to go home. But one thing we all want is to make sure the friends we lost over here weren't for nothing," said Captain Ryan Morrison, from Colorado Springs.

"We have to pull out responsibly. I have the feeling he wants to do it responsibly," he said.

Obama has pledged to pull U.S. combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months of taking office, a promise that seemed bold when he first made it last year but now coincides roughly with the timetable favoured by Iraq's government.

"I'm excited. He's going to be president and he's going to pull us from over here," said Sergeant First Class Norman Brown.

"If McCain had won we'd be over here for years, and I mean years and years. I reckon even people here don't want us here."

With levels of violence falling -- last month saw the fewest violent deaths among both Iraqi civilians and U.S. troops since the war began -- Iraqis increasingly express their hope that the force of more than 150,000 U.S. troops can leave soon.

"I as an Iraqi am asking Obama to keep his promises about the withdrawal of the U.S. security forces from our land," said Baqi Naqid, a Baghdad journalist. "We don't need an occupation."


The Iraqi government is negotiating a security pact with the outgoing administration of President George W. Bush that would require U.S. troops to exit by the end of 2011. But some Iraqis still fear violence may return if U.S. troops leave too rapidly.

"They came on a mission. They should complete it. There should be 100 percent security before they leave," said Baghdad housewife Um Saba, 58. She said she preferred the Republicans for supporting an increase of troops last year that she credited with helping to curb violence.

Among U.S. troops, political loyalties were divided and debate spirited during the long campaign. African American soldiers described Obama's victory as inspirational.

"It gives me hope that anybody can accomplish anything no matter what your race, colour or creed," said Los Angeles native Staff Sergeant Andre Frazier, adding he hoped it would improve the U.S. image abroad.

"We're going to get back to where we were as a nation before the turmoil kicked in, in terms of other nations not seeing us as we are," he said.

There was also a great deal of support for Obama's defeated rival John McCain, whose own war record makes him popular in a military that socially tilts toward the right.

"I supported McCain because he's closer to the constitutional values I believe in and because he clearly supports the military," said another soldier from Colorado who asked not to be named when giving his political preference in uniform. "But in the end it doesn't matter. We'll serve whoever is the commander in chief." (Additional reporting by Aseel Kami; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Jon Boyle)