Wednesday, September 1, 2010

President Obama Declares End of the Combat Mission in Iraq

"At every turn, America’s men and women in uniform have served with courage and resolve.  As Commander-in-Chief, I am incredibly proud of their service.  And like all Americans, I’m awed by their sacrifice, and by the sacrifices of their families." - President Obama in the Oval Office address on August 31, 2010

On August 31, President Obama declared an end to the seven-year American combat mission in Iraq, saying that the United States has met its responsibility to that country and that it is now time to turn to pressing problems at home. 

In a prime-time address from the Oval Office, Mr. Obama balanced praise for the troops who fought and died in Iraq with his conviction that getting into the conflict had been a mistake in the first place. But he also used the moment to emphasize that he sees his primary job as addressing the weak economy and other domestic issues — and to make clear that he intends to begin disengaging from the war in Afghanistan next summer.

“We have sent our young men and women to make enormous sacrifices in Iraq, and spent vast resources abroad at a time of tight budgets at home,” Mr. Obama said. “Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility. Now, it’s time to turn the page.” 

Mr. Obama acknowledged a war fatigue among Americans who have called into question his focus on the Afghanistan war, now approaching its 10th year. He said that American forces in Afghanistan “will be in place for a limited time” to give Afghans the chance to build their government and armed forces. 

“But, as was the case in Iraq, we cannot do for Afghans what they must ultimately do for themselves,” the president said. He reiterated that next July he would begin transferring responsibility for security to Afghans, at a pace to be determined by conditions. 

“But make no mistake: this transition will begin, because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s,” he said. 

The withdrawal of combat forces represents a significant milestone after the war that toppled Mr. Hussein, touched off waves of sectarian strife and claimed the lives of more than 4,400 American soldiers and more than 70,000 Iraqis, according to United States and Iraqi government figures. 

“Operation Iraqi Freedom is over,” Mr. Obama said, using the military name for the mission, “and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.” 

A number of troops will remain in Iraq. The remaining “advise and assist” brigades will officially concentrate on supporting and training Iraqi security forces, protecting American personnel and facilities, and mounting counter terrorism operations.


President Obama's Oval Office Address

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