US President Barack Obama declared the end of a wounding US combat
mission in Iraq Tuesday, that resulted in 4,400 soldier deaths,
while signalling escalation of the conflict in Afghanistan to
defeat terrorists harboured in the region bordering Pakistan.
"As we speak, Al Qaeda continues to
plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border
region of Afghanistan and Pakistan," he said Tuesday in a prime
time nationally televised address from the Oval Office.
After seven long years of bloodshed, "It is time to turn the page"
in Iraq, he said claiming no victory and suggesting America's most
urgent priority now must be fixing its own recession hit economy
and the war in Afghanistan.
"We will disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda, while preventing
Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists," he said.
"And because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able to apply the
resources necessary to go on offence."
"In fact, over the last 19 months, nearly a dozen Al Qaeda leaders
-and hundreds of Al Qaeda's extremist allies-have been killed or
captured around the world," Obama said.
"But, as was the case in Iraq, we cannot do for Afghans what they
must ultimately do for themselves," he said making clear that from
next July, US will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility as
However, "The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by
conditions on the ground, and our support for Afghanistan will
endure," Obama assured. "But make no mistake: this transition will
begin - because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor
the Afghan people's."
He said the United States "has paid a huge price" to give Iraqis
the chance to shape their future - a price that now includes more
than 4,400 dead, tens of thousands of troops wounded and hundreds
of billions of dollars spent since March 2003.
In his remarks of slightly less than 20 minutes, only his second
address from the Oval Office, Obama declared: "Operation Iraqi
Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility
for the security of their country."
"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
Obama ignored Republican suggestions that he acknowledge a
personal mistake and give credit to for executing the 2007 troop
surge. Obama, then a senator, and other Democratic senators at the
time opposed the surge.
But Obama was careful not to declare "Mission Accomplished," a
slogan that haunted former President George W. Bush for much of
his presidency. The US has "no illusions" that violence has ended,
Deputy National Security Adviser Benjamin Rhodes said.
Noting that "Sectarian tensions remain a fact of life, Al Qaeda in
Iraq is beaten, but not gone," Defence Secretary Robert Gates
declared in a speech to the American Legion's national convention:
"This is not a time for premature victory parades or
(Arun Kumar can
be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)