President Obama addressed the White House press corps Friday afternoon, announcing that United States forces will fully withdraw from Iraq by the end of the year:
“As a candidate for president, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end, for the sake of our national security and to strengthen American leadership around the world,” Obama began. “After taking office, I announced a new strategy that would end our combat mission in Iraq and remove all of our troops by 2011. As Commander-in-Chief, ensuring the success of this strategy one of my highest national security priorities.
“Last year, I announced the end to our combat mission in Iraq, and to date we’ve removed more than 100,000 troops. Iraqis have taken full responsibility for their country’s security.
“A few hours ago I spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki. I reaffirmed that the United States keeps its commitments. He spoke of the determination of the Iraqi people to forge their own future. We are in full agreement about how to move forward.”
So, today, I can report that as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.
Over the next two months our troops in Iraq, tens of thousands of them, will pack up their gear, and board convoys for the journey home. The last American soldier will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops. That is how America’s military efforts in Iraq will end.
But even as we mark this important milestone, we’re also moving into a new phase in the relationship between the United States and Iraq. As of January first, and in keeping with our strategic framework agreement with Iraq, it will be a normal relationship between sovereign nations, an equal partnership based on mutual interest and mutual respect.
He later added:
Here at home, the coming months will be another season of homecomings. Across America, our servicemen and women will be reunited with their families. Today, I can say that our troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays. This december will be a time to reflect on all that we’ve been through in this war.
I’ll join the American people in paying tribute to the more than 1m Americans who have served in Iraq. We’ll honor our many wounded warriors, and the nearly 4,500 American patriots, and their Iraqi and coalition partners, who gave their lives to this effort.
And finally I would note that the end of war in Iraq reflects a larger transition. The tide of war is receding. the drawdown in Iraq allowed us to refocus our fight against al-Qaeda and achieve major victories against its leadership, including Osama bin Laden. Even as we remove our last troops form Iraq, we’re beginning to bring our troops home from Afghanistan, where we’ve begun a transition to Afghan security and leadership.
When I took office, roughly 180,000 troops were deployed in both these wars, and by the end of this year that number will be cut in half — and make no mistake, it will continue to go down.