President Obama Sets Iraq Withdrawal
FULL TEXT of Speech
Camp Lejeune, North Carolina
February 27, 2009
Good morning, Marines. Good morning, Camp Lejeune. Good morning, Jacksonville. Thank you for that outstanding welcome. I want to thank Lieutenant General Hejlik for hosting me here today.
I also want to acknowledge all of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. That includes the Camp Lejeune Marines now serving with – or soon joining – the Second Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq; those with Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force in Afghanistan; and those among the 8,000 Marines who are preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.
We have you in our prayers. We pay tribute to your service. We thank you and your families for all that you do for America. And I want all of you to know that there is no higher honor or greater responsibility than serving as your Commander-in-Chief.
I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge Ryan Crocker, who recently completed his service as our Ambassador to Iraq. Throughout his career, Ryan always took on the toughest assignments. He is an example of the very best that this nation has to offer, and we owe him a great debt of gratitude.
He carried on his work with an extraordinary degree of cooperation with two of our finest Generals – General David Petraeus, and General Ray Odierno – who will be critical in carrying forward the strategy that I will outline today.
Sixth Anniversary of the Iraq War
Next month will mark the sixth anniversary of the war in Iraq. By any measure, this has already been a long war. For the men and women of America’s armed forces – and for your families – this war has been one of the most extraordinary chapters of service in the history of our nation:
- You have endured tour after tour after tour of duty. You have known the dangers of combat and the lonely distance of loved ones.
- You have fought against tyranny and disorder.
- You have bled for your best friends and for unknown Iraqis.
- And you have borne an enormous burden for your fellow citizens, while extending a precious opportunity to the people of Iraq.
How the Iraq War Will End
Today, I have come to speak to you about how the war in Iraq will end.
To understand where we need to go in Iraq, it is important for the American people to understand where we now stand.
Thanks in great measure to your service, the situation in Iraq has improved:
- Violence has been reduced substantially from the horrific sectarian killing of 2006 and 2007.
- Al Qaeda in Iraq has been dealt a serious blow by our troops and Iraq’s Security Forces, and through our partnership with Sunni Arabs.
- The capacity of Iraq’s Security Forces has improved, and Iraq’s leaders have taken steps toward political accommodation.
- The relative peace and strong participation in January’s provincial elections sent a powerful message to the world about how far Iraqis have come in pursuing their aspirations through a peaceful political process.
But let there be no doubt: Iraq is not yet secure, and there will be difficult days ahead.
Violence will continue to be a part of life in Iraq. Too many fundamental political questions about Iraq’s future remain unresolved. Too many Iraqis are still displaced or destitute. Declining oil revenues will put an added strain on a government that has had difficulty delivering basic services.
Not all of Iraq’s neighbors are contributing to its security. Some are working at times to undermine it. And even as Iraq’s government is on a surer footing, it is not yet a full partner – politically and economically – in the region, or with the international community.
In short, today there is a renewed cause for hope in Iraq, but that hope rests upon an emerging foundation.