tv Presidential Address ABC August 31, 2010 8:00pm-8:15pm EDT
good evening. i'm diane sawyer here in new york with george stephanopoulos on a night many people thought would never come. seven years later, more than 4,000 american lives cost, president obama is about to announce the end of combat missions in iraq. >> and it was a war president obama opposed from the start. that opposition helped make him president. but ironically, diane, he probably wouldn't be making this announcement tonight but for president bush's 2007 surge of forces in iraq, which president obama also opposed. >> a year ago, 130,000 american troops in iraq, tonight, less than 50,000. dan harris is in baghdad tonight. he's been with the troops, standing in front of one of saddam's former presidential
palaces, dan. >> good evening. not a lot of people are going to see this speech live in this country because it's 3:00 in the morning now. local media here are covering the story aggressively. and tonight the iraqi prime minister gave his own nationally televised address in which he called the end of the combat mission a major step toward restoring this country's sovereignty. back to you. >> the president will say it's time to turn the page here as well, which is why he'll focus largely on the economy tonight. >> let's go to the white house now. 7 1/2 years after the war began, here is the president. >> good evening. tonight, i'd like to talk to you about the end of our combat mission in iraq. the ongoing security challenges we face, and the need to rebuild our nation here at home. i know this historic moment comes at a time of great uncertainty for many americans. we've now been through nearly a decade of war. we've endured a long and painful
recession. and sometimes in the midst of these storms the future that we're trying to build for our nation, a future of lasting peace and long-term prosperity, may seem beyond our reach. but this milestone should serve as a reminder to all americans that the future is ours to shape. if we move forward with confidence and commitment. it should also serve as a message to the world that the united states of america intends to sustain and strengthen our leadership in this young century. from this desk, 7 1/2 years ago, president bush announced the beginning of military operations in iraq. much has changed since that night. a war to disarm a state became a fight against an insurgency. terrorism and sectarian warfare threatened to tear iraq apart. thousands of americans gave their lives. tens of thousands have been
wounded. our relations abroad were strained. our unity at home was tested. these are the rough waters encountered during the course of one of america's longest wars. if there has been one constant amidst these shifting tide, at every turn, america's men and women in uniform have served with courage and resolve. as commander in chief, i am incredibly proud of their service. and, like all americans, i am awed by their sacrifice and by the sacrifices of their families. the americans who have served in iraq completed every mission they were given. they defeated a regime that had terrorized its people. together with iraqis and coalition partners who made huge sacrifices of their own, our troops fought block by block to help iraq seize the chance for a better future. they shifted tactics to protect
the iraqi people. trained iraqi security forces and took out terrorist leaders. because of our troops and civilians, and because of the resilience of the iraqi people, iraq has the opportunity to embrace a new destiny. even though many challenges remain. so tonight i am announcing that the american combat mission in iraq has ended. "operation iraqi freedom" is over. and the iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country. this was my pledge to the american people as a candidate for this office. last february, i announced a plan that would bring our combat brigades out of iraq, while redoubling our efforts to strengthen iraq's security forces and support its government and people. that's what we've done. we've removed nearly 100,000 u.s. troops from iraq. we've closed or transferred to
the iraqis hundreds of bases. and we have moved millions of pieces of equipment out of iraq. this completes a transition to iraqi responsibility for their own security. u.s. troops pulled out of iraq cities last summer. and iraqi forces have moved into the lead with considerable skill and commitment to their fellow citizens. even as iraq continues to suffer terrorist attacks, security incidents have been near the lowest on record since the war began. and iraqi forces have taken the fight to al qaeda. removing much of its leadership in iraqi-led operations. this year also saw iraq hold credible elections that drew a strong turnout. a caretaker administration is in place, as iraqis form a government based on the results of that election. tonight, i encourage iraq's leaders to move forward with a sense of urgency, to form an inclusive government that is
just, representative and accountable to the iraqi people. and when that government is in place, there should be no doubt, the iraqi people will have a strong partner in the united states. our combat mission is ending. but our commitment to iraq's future is not. going forward, a transitional force of u.s. troops will remain in iraq with a different mission. advising and assisting iraq security forces. supporting iraqi troops in targeted counterterrorism missions. and protecting our civilians. consistent with our agreement with the iraqi government, all u.s. troops will leave by the end of next year. as our military draws down, our dedicated civilians, diplomats, aid workers and advisers are moving into the lead to support iraq as it strengthens its government, resolves political disputes, resettles those displaced by war, and builds
ties with the region and the world. that's a message that vice president biden is delivering to the iraqi people through his visit there today. this new approach reflects our long-term partnership with iraq. one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect. of course, violence will not end with our combat mission. extremists will continue to set off bombs, attack iraqi civilians, and try to spark sectarian strife. but ultimately, these terrorists will fail to achieve their goals. iraqis are a proud people. they have rejected sectarian war. and they have no interest in endless destruction. they understand that in the end only iraqis can resolve their differences and police their streets. only iraqis can build a democracy within their borders. what america can do and will do is provide support for the iraqi people as both a friend and a partner.
ending this war is not only in iraq's interest, it's in our own. the united states has paid a huge price to put the future of iraq in the hands of its people. we have sent our young men and women to make enormous sacrifices in iraq and spent vast resources abroad at a time of tight budgets at home. we persevered because of a belief we share with the iraqi people. a belief that out of the ashes of war a new beginning could be borne in this cradle of civilization. through this remarkable chapter in the history of the united states and iraq, we have met our responsibilities. now, it's time to turn the page. as we do, i'm mindful that the iraqi war has been a contentious issue at home. here, too, it's time to turn the page. this afternoon, i spoke to
former president george w. bush. it's well known that he and i disagreed about the war from its outset. yet, no one can doubt president bush's support for our troops or his love of country and commitment to our security. as i've said, there were patriots who supported this war and patriots who opposed it. and all of us are united in appreciation for our service men and women and our hopes for ei q iraq's future. greatness of our democracy is grounded in our ability to move beyond our differences. and to learn from our experience as we look to the many challenges ahead. no challenge is more essential to our security than our fight against al qaeda. americans across the political spectrum supported the use of force against those who attacked i on 9/11. now, as we approach our tenth year of cam both in afghanistan, there are those who
understandably are asking tough questions about our mission there. but we must never lose sight of what's at stake. as we speak, al qaeda continues to plot against us. and its leadership remains anchored in the border regions of afghanistan and pakistan. we will disrupt, dismantle and defeat al qaeda. while preventing afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists. and because of our draw-down in iraq, we are now able to apply the resources necessary to go on offense. 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. within afghanistan, i've ordered the deployment of additional troops who, under the command of general david petraeus, are fighting to break the taliban's momentum. as with the surge in iraq, these forces will be in place for a limited time to provide space for the afghans to build their
capacity and secure their own future. but, as was the case in iraq, we can't do for afghans what they must ultimately do for themselves. that's why we're training afghan security forces and supporting a political resolution to afghanistan's problems. and next august, we will begin a transition to afghan responsibility. the pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground. and our support for afghanistan will endure. but make no mistake, this transition will begin because open-ended war serves neither our interests, nor the afghan peoples. indeed, one of the lessons of our effort in iraq is that american influence around the world is not a function of military force alone. we must use all elements of our power, including our diplomacy, our economic strength and the power of america's example, to
secure our interests and stand by our allies. and we must project a vision of the future that's based not just on our fears but also on our hopes. a vision that recognizes the real dangers that exist around the world but also the limitless possibilities of our time. today, old adversaries are at peace. and emerging democracies are potential partners. new markets for our goods stretch from asia to the americas. a new push for peace in the middle east will begin here, tomorrow. billions of young people want to move beyond the shackles of poverty and conflict. as the leader of the free world, america will do more than just defeat on the battlefield those who offer hatred and destruction. we will also lead among those who are willing to work together to expand freedom and opportunity for all people. now, that effort must begin within our own borders.
throughout our history, america has been willing to bear the burden of promoting liberty and human dignity overseas, understanding its links to our own liberty and security. we have also understood our nation's strength and influence abroad must be fairly anchored in our prosperity at home. and the bedrock of that prosperity must be a growing middle class. unfortunately, over the last decade, we've not done what's necessary to shore up the foundations of our own prosperity. we spent a trillion dollars at war. this, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people and contributed to record deficits. for too long, we have put off tough decisions, on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform. as a result, too many middle class families find themselves working harder for less.
while our nation's long-term competitiveness is put at risk. and so at this moment, as we wind down the war in iraq, we must tackle those challenges at home with as much energy and grit and sense of common purpose as our men and women in uniform who have served abroad. they have met every test that they faced. now it's our turn. now it's our responsibility to honor them by coming together, all of us, and working to secure the dream that so many generations have fought for. the dream that a better life awaits anyone who is willing to work for it. and reach for it. our most urgent task is to restore our economy and put the millions of americans who have lost their jobs back to work. to strengthen our middle class, we must give all our children the education they deserve and all our workers the skills that they need to compete in a global