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Obama in Oval Office Address: Iraq War Combat Mission Is Over

4 years ago
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David Wood
Chief Military Correspondent
Carrying out a major pledge of his 2008 presidential campaign, President Obama Tuesday night declared an end to the U.S. combat mission in Iraq after 89 months of fighting that has killed 4,416 Americans and cost $708 billion so far.
"Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country,'' Obama said in the second Oval Office address of his presidency.
He repeatedly paid tribute to the nearly 1.5 million service men and women who served in Iraq. "As commander in chief, I am incredibly proud of their service. Like all Americans, I am awed by their sacrifice, and by the sacrifice of their families,'' he said.
In spite of the drawdown of troops in Iraq, the president made clear that the United States is not backing away from its global responsibilities. He vowed to maintain "the finest fighting force that the world has ever known,'' and said the United States will defeat al-Qaeda in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
As "the leader of the free world,'' he said, the United States will "defeat on the battlefield those who offer hatred and destruction'' and will work with others to "expand freedom and opportunity for all people.''
But in Iraq, at least, Obama made clear that the long, U.S.-led phase of the war is over.
"The United States has paid a huge price to put the future of Iraq in the hands of its people. 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. We have persevered because of a belief we share with the Iraqi people -- a belief that out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization.
"Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility. Now, it is time to turn the page," Obama said.
Some 47,500 armed U.S. military personnel remain in Iraq, including about 20,000 assigned to advise and accompany Iraqi soldiers and police on security missions. An additional 4,500 U.S. special operations forces work with Iraqi commandos to track and snatch or kill high-level terrorists. Others are assigned as advisers to Iraqi government ministries.
Obama has stressed that the gradual drawdown of U.S. forces has been based on security conditions and blessed by his outgoing Iraq war commander, Gen. Ray Odierno.

Read David Wood's Iraq Scorecard: The War So Far and the transcript of President Obama's address from the Oval Office
The withdrawal of nearly 100,000 U.S. troops during Obama's presidency continued despite a major snag: the inability of Iraqi politicians to form a government after presidential elections last March failed to produce a clear winner. Negotiations have continued between power blocs led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Ayad Allawi, a former interim prime minister.
While political jockeying has intensified, so has violence. Last week al-Qaeda in Iraq, the chief Sunni terrorist organization, claimed responsibility for a coordinated bombing campaign that struck 13 cities across the country, killing at least 56 people.
U.S. military officers have said they are wary that the Sunni-led violence will sooner or later provoke an armed response from the majority Shia population as it becomes clear that Iraqi security forces cannot protect them. That could signal a return to the bloody sectarian fighting that claimed thousands of lives in 2006 and 2007.
U.S. troop withdrawals are mandated under a joint U.S.-Iraq agreement signed during the final months of the Bush presidency, which calls for all American military personnel to be out of Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011.
Many had assumed that agreement would be renegotiated, as it would ban even Marine guards at the U.S. embassy and technical experts working with Iraqis on weapons systems sold to Iraq by the United States.
But with only a caretaker government in place, no formal negotiations are underway, U.S. officials said, creating a worrisome delay.
The idea of an interim but steep reduction of U.S. forces was championed by then-Sen. Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign. In Feb. 2009, barely four weeks into his presidency, Obama stood before thousands of Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C., to outline what he said was a new Iraq war strategy.
Announcing his decision, after an intense review with the Joint Chiefs, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and others, Obama said he would shrink the U.S. military presence in Iraq to 50,000 by Aug. 31, 2010, based on the advice of his Iraq commanders and conditions on the ground.
What was striking was that his motivation was not simply to fulfill a campaign pledge, or that the war was over, or even that Iraqis would be able to handle their country themselves.The reason, Obama said, was that the United States could no longer afford the war.
"The simple reality,'' Obama said then, is "that America can no longer afford to see Iraq in isolation from other priorities: we face the challenge of refocusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan; of relieving the burden on our military; and of rebuilding our struggling economy -- and these are challenges that we will meet.''
The president struck the same note in his speech Tuesday night
"Today, our most urgent task is to restore our economy, and put the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs back to work,'' he said. "This will be difficult. But in the days to come, it must be our central mission as a people, and my central responsibility as president."
The war was launched by President George W. Bush in March, 2003, ostensibly to seize Iraq's stockpile of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and to overthrow the regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
"Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly, yet our purpose is sure,'' Bush said as he announced the start of the war on March 20, 2003. "The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder,'' he declared.
Although some Republican pundits predicted the U.S. invasion would be a "cakewalk,'' Bush warned that the fighting "could be longer and more difficult than some predict and helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable and free country will require our sustained commitment.''
But even he did not foresee that U.S. forces would be engaged in bitter combat for the remainder of the decade.

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Can the American People really feel that doing all the Damage in Iraq. And forcing Iraq towards a so-called self governing Country, worth the thousands of innocent Iraq peoples deaths. And to look at news today and see where 52 people, including the Priest in a Catholic Church were killed today by the kind of terriost that will only increase because of what we have done. If and when we leave, those kind of people will steady kill innocent people for there anger. I sure have very mixed feelings about it. My only Son served in the Middle East, so in no way I am blaming the Proud Men and women who serve. Its the Leaders that send them. Are They making the right decisions ?

November 01 2010 at 9:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
catalogsplus

Oh, it's not over Mr. President just because you say so. Not as long as there is one single US soldier remaining there in harm's way.

September 01 2010 at 2:29 PM Report abuse +12 rate up rate down Reply
Bonbon

He should know exactly what to do about everything, he said he did in the speech in Denver, we should have no war with him in charge, he won the nobel peace prize so obviously he is an expert at peace, he should be bringing every troop home from everywhere securing our borders with all all troops and restoring a great economy to this nation, he said he would. Now get on it Obama, he also said in Denver he would cure diseases too and i haven't seen any of that yet.

September 01 2010 at 1:32 PM Report abuse +10 rate up rate down Reply
wasp12712-45

Saddly there are folks out who still think a turned cheek is the answer to everything. only in a world where we all think the same can that work . unless you want your children stoned to death for any reason the mob thinks is justified. that my friends is what we as free peoples cannot seem to understand .and for this guy is totaly unexceptable that we treat our enemies as freinds . i say Do Not become the Ostrich and bury your heads in the sands of goodness while evil is hunting you.

September 01 2010 at 1:07 PM Report abuse +12 rate up rate down Reply
Happy Face

It should become a law that future presidents should be veterans. Generals and admirals must have training. Should they have to report to a president who has none?

September 01 2010 at 12:29 PM Report abuse +18 rate up rate down Reply
ialbel

The surge worked ... thank you for tossing a bone to our military. I am no Bush defender, but the surge worked didn't it? Just checking the facts ...

September 01 2010 at 11:22 AM Report abuse +13 rate up rate down Reply
kingnus

This is a great cost to the USA to start democrocy in the middle east to make it safer for Israel.

September 01 2010 at 10:59 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
bthered

Bush must not have left his Play Book at the White House....The Bush and Cheney plan was simple....A War That Would Never End...

September 01 2010 at 10:51 AM Report abuse -11 rate up rate down Reply
Mike&JennPerez

I think the President diplomaticly fulfilled and pulled out of an ugly situation wonderfully. We' will be an ais to the country but its time they as well as we take care or personal homefronts. As well as making a promise to all veterans that was wonderful all soldiers and their families make a promise to this country and sacrifice more than myself an average person can understand. It's about time our men and women are home and the government gives back to us the people that work, pay and sacrife for our country. Thank you to all the men and women that gave their time, lives,commitment... to our country and all of us!!!! THANK YOU and that you Mr. President for knowing they are past due to be home!!!

September 01 2010 at 9:58 AM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply
kolia

i am a veteran. i served this country during 1967 and 1970. was spit at back home in nyc when on holiday leave. people then and people now will let you know how they feel about things, conflicts, about wars etc. how do i feel about it. well, our prez. obama is a good man and a wise one. he got our men and women back home as he had promised. he will continue in the righteous journey. he is blessed by the most higher. our country is currently on the right path. he must remain in office another term. thank you.

September 01 2010 at 9:46 AM Report abuse -31 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to kolia's comment
Katherine

As long as we still have troops over there and they are being attacked, we are at war. You have to be pretty naive to think that the Taliban and Iran are not going use this opportunity to jump into Iraq(they already have). There has been conflict in the Middle East my eitire life-and decades before I was born-and it is not going to end anytime soon.

September 05 2010 at 1:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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