On August 31, President Obama addressed the nation to announce that the combat mission in Iraq had ended. “Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.”
Two weeks ago, the Army’s Fourth Striker Brigade, America’s last combat brigade in Iraq, made their trip home. Now, 50,000 troops will remain to help police the streets. They are set to withdraw completely by the end of next year, as part of an agreement signed by President George W. Bush.
In his speech, Obama praised the troops for the progress and sacrifices they have made. “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.”
Back on the campaign trail, Obama promised to get the troops out of Iraq. The transition out included removing nearly 100,000 U.S. troops and moving millions of pieces of equipment out of Iraq. Obama says that next July, troops will start to be withdrawn from Afghanistan as well.
The President noted positive improvements in Iraq. Though the country continues to suffer terrorist attacks, he said security incidents have been near the lowest on record since the war began. The Iraq elections also drew a strong turnout.
“Tonight, I encourage Iraq’s leaders to move forward with a sense of urgency to form an inclusive government that is just representative and accountable to the Iraqi people,” said Obama.
If Iraq can build a stable democracy, he said, America would be both a friend and a partner. He also touched on our safety here at home, saying we will disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda. Over the last 19 months, hundreds of Al Qaeda allies, and nearly a dozen leaders, have been killed or captured.
Obama also touched on the recession, naming the forms of recovery to be supporting small businesses, strengthening the middle class, and giving children a good education. Now it is everyone’s, including Obama’s, central mission and responsibility.
Reactions to the address have been mixed. Among the criticisms are the insinuations that Obama is ending the combat mission for purely political reasons. Did he just want to make good on a campaign promise?
Additionally, Marine Corps Commandant James Conway made a comment on August 24 that the Taliban could be happy with the announcement that troops will withdraw from Afghanistan in July 2011. “In some ways, we think right now it’s probably giving our enemy sustenance.”
On the other hand, those with loved ones in the military appreciated the speech. Sharon Grassi, a military mom, told My Fox Phoenix, “I was grateful he gave credit to the military for all the successes they have had.”
Vice President Joe Biden was in Iraq to take part in a ceremony celebrating the transition of power. He said, “It is not our place to tell the Iraqis who should lead. But I strongly urge them to match the courage that their citizens have shown, by bringing this process to a close and forming a government. And I trust they will do so soon.”Tweet