On my first full day in office, I directed my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of our strategy in Iraq to determine the best way to strengthen that foundation, while strengthening American national security.
I have listened to my Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and commanders on the ground. We have acted with careful consideration of events on the ground; with respect for the security agreements between the United States and Iraq; and with a critical recognition that the long-term solution in Iraq must be political – not military. Because the most important decisions that have to be made about Iraq’s future must now be made by Iraqis.
America MUST Focus on More than Iraq
We have also taken into account the simple reality that America can no longer afford to see Iraq in isolation from other priorities:
- we face the challenge of refocusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan;
- of relieving the burden on our military; and
- of rebuilding our struggling economy
Today, I can announce that our review is complete, and that the United States will pursue a new strategy to end the war in Iraq through a transition to full Iraqi responsibility.
This strategy is grounded in a clear and achievable goal shared by the Iraqi people and the American people: an Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant.
To achieve that goal: We will work to promote an Iraqi government that is just, representative, and accountable, and that provides neither support nor safe-haven to terrorists.
We will help Iraq build new ties of trade and commerce with the world.
And we will forge a partnership with the people and government of Iraq that contributes to the peace and security of the region.
What America Will Not Do
What we will not do is let the pursuit of the perfect stand in the way of achievable goals:
- We cannot rid Iraq of all who oppose America or sympathize with our adversaries.
- We cannot police Iraq’s streets until they are completely safe, nor stay until Iraq’s union is perfected.
- We cannot sustain indefinitely a commitment that has put a strain on our military, and will cost the American people nearly a trillion dollars.
Part One - Obama Strategy in Iraq
The first part of this strategy is therefore the responsible removal of our combat brigades from Iraq.
Withdrawal of U.S. Combat Troops by Aug 31, 2010
As a candidate for President, I made clear my support for a timeline of 16 months to carry out this drawdown, while pledging to consult closely with our military commanders upon taking office to ensure that we preserve the gains we’ve made and protect our troops.
Those consultations are now complete, and I have chosen a timeline that will remove our combat brigades over the next 18 months.
Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.
As we carry out this drawdown, my highest priority will be the safety and security of our troops and civilians in Iraq. We will proceed carefully, and I will consult closely with my military commanders on the ground and with the Iraqi government.
There will surely be difficult periods and tactical adjustments. But our enemies should be left with no doubt: this plan gives our military the forces and the flexibility they need to support our Iraqi partners, and to succeed.
After Withdrawal, Supporting the Iraqi Government
After we remove our combat brigades, our mission will change from combat to supporting the Iraqi government and its Security Forces as they take the absolute lead in securing their country.
As I have long said, we will retain a transitional force to carry out three distinct functions:
- training, equipping, and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian;
- conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions; and
- protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq.
Through this period of transition, we will carry out further redeployments. And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.
We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home with the honor that they have earned.