President Obama spoke to disabled veterans in Atlanta today, and took the opportunity to highlight the progress of troop withdrawals in Iraq which have continued as promised and are on schedule to end all combat objectives in Iraq, though 50,000 troops will remain to continue training Iraqi forces in the region.
Now, one of those chapters is nearing an end. As a candidate for President, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end. (Applause.) Shortly after taking office, I announced our new strategy for Iraq and for a transition to full Iraqi responsibility. And I made it clear that by August 31st, 2010, America’s combat mission in Iraq would end. And that is exactly what we are doing -- as promised and on schedule.
Already, we have closed or turned over to Iraq hundreds of bases. We’re moving out millions of pieces of equipment in one of the largest logistics operations that we’ve seen in decades. By the end of this month, we’ll have brought more than 90,000 of our troops home from Iraq since I took office -- more than 90,000 have come home.
He did not ignore Afghanistan, or the raging debate over it:
The effort in Afghanistan has been long and been difficult. And that’s why after years in which the situation had deteriorated, I announced a new strategy last December -- a military effort to break the Taliban’s momentum and train Afghan forces so that they can take the lead for their security; and a civilian effort to promote good governance and development that improves the lives of the Afghan people; and deeper cooperation with Pakistan to root out terrorists on both sides of the border.
We will continue to face huge challenges in Afghanistan. But it’s important that the American people know that we are making progress and we are focused on goals that are clear and achievable.
On the military front, nearly all the additional forces that I ordered to Afghanistan are now in place. Along with our Afghan and international partners, we are going on the offensive against the Taliban -- targeting their leaders, challenging them in regions where they had free reign, and training Afghan national security forces. Our thoughts and prayers are with all our troops risking their lives for our safety in Afghanistan.
And on the civilian front, we’re insisting on greater accountability. And the Afghan government has taken concrete steps to foster development and combat corruption, and to put forward a reintegration plan that allows Afghans to lay down their arms.
He once again articulated the ultimate goal in Afghanistan, too:
We will disrupt, we will dismantle, and we will ultimately defeat al Qaeda.