It was the announcement U.S. servicemen and their families have been waiting nearly a decade to hear: President Obama announced a full-scale troop withdrawal in Iraq by the end of the year.
He echoed a commitment made during his 2008 campaign and recalled his plan to end combat missions in Iraq and to begin a steady draw-down of boots on the ground. Obama said, “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.”
Obama emphasized the United States’ commitment to the 39,000 soldiers currently stationed in Iraq and to a peaceful transition. He talked about forging a new relationship with Iraq calling it, “a normal relationship between sovereign nations: an equal partnership based on mutual interests and mutual respect.”
But the president also offered a sense of assurance saying, “Here at home, the coming months will be a season of homecomings. Our servicemen and women will be united with their families. Today I can say that our troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays.”
But even as the White House acknowledges the end of one conflict, the war in Afghanistan endures. “We’re beginning to bring our troops home from Afghanistan where we’ve begun a transition to Afghan security in leadership,” he said.
He added that when he took office, nearly 180,000 troops were deployed in both Afghanistan and Iraq but by the end of the year, “that number will be cut in half.”
It has been a costly war in terms of casualties. There have been some 4,408 U.S. military deaths in the Iraq War, according to the Department of Defense.
Following the president's announcement, top security officials answered reporters’ questions.
Antony Blinken, national security advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, offered an optimistic view of the future saying, “The president has been committed to bringing our troops home and we’re on track to do that. We already have a track record that suggests the security of Iraq will move forward.”
After all of the lives lost and dollars spent, was the War in Iraq worth it in the end? To that, Blinken said, “History will have to judge that. What we can say is that our troops have done remarkably. Iraq is emerging as a secure, stable, self-reliant country.”
The chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver literally brought home the events of the day in a statement he released saying, “Now as we end the wars, we can focus on rebuilding — right here at home.”
(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)