FORT BRAGG, N.C.

Obama salutes troops returning from Iraq war

President Barack Obama on Wednesday saluted troops returning from Iraq, asserting that the nearly nine-year conflict was ending honorably, “not with a final battle, but with a final march toward home.”

Marking the conclusion of the war at a military base that’s seen more than 200 deaths from fighting in Iraq, Obama never tried to declare victory. It was a war that he opposed from the start, inherited as president and is now bringing to a close, leaving behind an Iraq still struggling.

But he sought to pronounce a noble end to a fight that has cost nearly 4,500 American lives and more than 100,000 Iraqi lives.

All U.S. troops are to be out of Iraq Dec. 31, though Obama has pledged the U.S. will continue civilian assistance for Iraq as it faces an uncertain future in a volatile region of the world.

WASHINGTON

Romney campaign fading as Gingrich’s bid surges

With the Iowa caucus nearing and Newt Gingrich surging, Mitt Romney’s campaign strategies appear to be flagging in the Republican presidential race. He’s starting to adjust.

A new Associated Press-GfK poll finds that Republicans aren’t buying Romney’s chief argument: that his private-sector, outside-Washington background makes him a better candidate than does Gingrich’s three decades in the capital. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, also has been unable to persuade Republicans he’s more conservative than Gingrich.

Romney and his aides are beginning to revamp. They know they have limited time to get voters’ attention before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucus and the Jan. 10 New Hampshire primary.

In recent days, Romney’s campaign has highlighted Gingrich’s departures from conservative paths, subjected their own candidate to wider media scrutiny and emphasized the less-flattering aspects of Gingrich’s Washington experience.

— From news service reports