Obama, Maliki Hail 'New
Chapter' for Iraq Without US Troops
December 13, 2011
U.S. President Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki say
their countries will maintain strong security, diplomatic and economic
ties after the last U.S. combat forces withdraw at the end of the year.
Barack Obama and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, White House Photo, Pete
With less than three weeks before the last U.S. combat troops leave
Iraq, and nearly nine years after the U.S. invaded to oust Saddam
Hussein, President Obama and Prime Minister Maliki sat down to discuss
the future of the U.S.-Iraq relationship.
As a presidential candidate in 2008, Mr. Obama pledged a "responsible"
end to a war begun by his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, and
among the most politically divisive conflicts in U.S. history.
Mr. Obama said he has fulfilled that pledge, and in a joint news
conference with Mr. Maliki emphasized that while Iraqis are now
responsible for their own security, the U.S. commitment to Iraq's
stability and security will not diminish. "We have got an enormous
investment of blood and treasure in Iraq, and we want to make sure that
even as we bring the last troops out, it is well understood both in Iraq
and here in the United States that our commitment to Iraq's success is
going to be enduring," he said.
Mr. Obama said Iraq faces challenges, including continual attacks by
"those who seek to derail Iraq's progress" but said he is confident Iraq
He said he and Mr. Maliki reaffirmed a "common vision" of a long-term
comprehensive partnership, including cooperation in security,
counter-terrorism, economic development and strengthening Iraq's
Mr. Maliki said the U.S. withdrawal symbolizes a successful first stage
of the new relationship. "We have proven success on the first mission, a
very unique success, nobody imagined that we would succeed in defeating
terrorism and the al-Qaida. We must also establish the necessary steps
in order to succeed in our second stage which is the enduring
relationship under the Strategic Framework Agreement," he said.
U.S.-Iraq discussions continue on implementation of a Strategic
Framework Agreement, and on U.S. training for Iraqi forces. An agreement
on that eluded both sides over the past year.
Mr. Obama noted that the U.S. will have no bases in Iraq. He said a
large U.S. diplomatic mission will help support building effective
diplomatic, civilian and military-to-military ties.
The president mentioned training for Iraq's use of F-16 fighters it
purchased, possible joint military exercises, and joint
counter-terrorism operations. The White House confirmed that the Obama
administration notified Congress of its intent to sell Iraq another
group of F-16s.
President Obama paid tribute to the more than one million Americans who
served in Iraq, 4,500 fallen Americans and thousands wounded, as well as
Iraqis who gave their lives. "They are the reason that we can stand here
today and we owe it to every single one of them, we have a moral
obligation to all of them, to build a future worthy of their sacrifice,"
two men then made the short trip from the White House to Arlington
National Cemetery where they jointly laid a wreath at the Tomb of the
Unknowns, a memorial honoring U.S. soldiers whose remains have not been
President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama travel Wednesday to Fort
Bragg, North Carolina, where they will speak directly to U.S. troops and
thank them again for their sacrifices.
Monday's White House talks came against the backdrop of concerns U.S.
and Iraqi officials have that the U.S. withdrawal could lead to weakened
security and an upsurge in violence.
Mr. Obama was asked about a comment he made as a presidential candidate
describing the war in Iraq as a "dumb war." He said "history will judge
the original decision to go into Iraq, adding it is "absolutely clear"
that sacrifices made by U.S. soldiers and civilians, and the courage of
Iraq's people, made possible an Iraq that is self-governing, inclusive
and with enormous potential.