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Operation Iraqi Freedom is over!

Last updated on: September 1, 2010 12:11 IST

Operation Iraqi Freedom is over

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Formally declaring that combat mission in Iraq is over United States President Barack Obama has said that this milestone should serve as a message to the world that it intends to sustain and strengthen our leadership in the 21st century.

"This milestone should serve as a reminder to all Americans that our 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," Obama said in his address to the nation.

In his live televised speech from his Oval office, Obama said that he was announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq had ended.

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Image: US President Barack Obama speaks after addressing the nation about the end of the US combat mission in Iraq from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington
Photographs: Jim Young/Reuters
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"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," he said.

"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 is what we have done," he said.

The US has removed nearly 100,000 US troops from Iraq.

It has closed or transferred hundreds of bases to the Iraqis and has moved millions of pieces of equipment out of Iraq, he asserted.


Image: An Iraqi boy waves to a US soldier at the Al Tatawori school in Hor Albosch, Iraq
Photographs: DoD photo by Spc Venessa Hernandez, US Army/Released
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"Ending this war is not only in Iraq's interest -- it is in our own. The United States has paid a huge price to put the future of Iraq in the hands of its people," Obama said.

"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 have 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 born in this cradle of civilisation," the President said.

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Image: Soldiers of the 1st Iraqi Army and US Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, load onto a CH-53 Sea Stallion
Photographs: US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Daniel St Pierre/Released
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Terming it as "remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq" he said, we have met our responsibility.

"Now, it is time to turn the page."

The President said now the most urgent task is to restore the US 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 economy," he said.


Image: US Army Sgt David Diehl, from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, provides security outside a school in Baqubah, Iraq
Photographs: DoD photo by Ted Green, US Navy/Released
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"We must jumpstart industries that create jobs, and end our dependence on foreign oil. We must unleash the innovation that allows new products to roll off our assembly lines, and nurture the ideas that spring from our entrepreneurs," Obama said.

Acknowledging that this will be difficult, Obama said: "But in the days to come, it must be our central mission as a people, and my central responsibility as President."

Lauding Obama's formal announcement, US Congressmen hoped that the President would focus on winning the war against terrorism in Afghanistan and rebuilding the economy.

"This is a proud moment for our armed forces who have spent seven years doing difficult and dangerous work in Iraq to protect our country and we owe them our thanks," said Senator Herb Kohl.


Image: US Army Sgt 1st Class Refugio finishes handing out stuffed animals to children during a Kurdish New Year celebration in the Qarah Anir region of Kirkuk, Iraq, March 21, 2010
Photographs: DoD photo by Matthew D Leistikow, US Navy/Released
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Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, termed its a new chapter and said "we open this new chapter knowing that American troops remain on the ground, advising, assisting, and training Iraq's security personnel."

"We honour their continued sacrifice; we offer them our gratitude and pledge to keep providing them with the equipment, tools, armour and other resources needed to complete their mission -- and the services they need when they come home," said Pelosi.

"The Obama administration and the Democratic Congress pledged to end the war in Iraq, and this month's completion of the responsible redeployment of American combat troops demonstrates that that pledge is being kept," said House Majority Leader, Steny H Hoyer.


Image: US Army Cpt Victor Morris, F Co 5-2 Infantry Commander, meets with Lt Col Abdulah Jarih-Wohayed, 4226 Iraqi Army (IA) Battalion Commander at IA head quarters in Baghdad
Photographs: US Army photo by Spc Venessa Hernandez/Released
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Though our combat mission in Iraq is over, grave challenges remain. While America seeks a stable Iraqi government, capable of standing on its own, enemies of the Iraqi people still intend to sow violence and undermine Iraq's democratically-elected government, he added.

Commending Obama for sticking to his redeployment time-table, Senator Russ Feingold said after seven years, more than 4,400 American lives lost, tens of thousands more wounded and hundreds of billions of dollars spent, US departure from Iraq is taking much longer than it should have.

"But it does show that setting a timetable for redeployment can help responsibly transition control and enable us to focus on what must be our top national security priority, combating al Qaeda's global network," he said.


Image: A mourner pays final respects at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Wall
Photographs: DoD photo by Leah Stiles, US Navy/Released
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"Tonight President Obama affirmed our obligation to finish the job in Iraq and draw down our presence there in a responsible, honourable way.

"While we still have thousands of troops who remain in Iraq in an advisory role, the responsibility for the security of Iraq now rests primarily with the Iraqi people," said Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid.

America's war may be ending, the struggle for Iraq's future is not, noted Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"That outcome will be decided by the Iraqi people themselves, but they will not be alone. America needs to strengthen and expand the bilateral relationship beyond mutual security interests to trade, culture, science and technology, health and education," he said.


Image: Tech Sgt Russell Buckner, 134 ARW Security Forces Squadron, recieves a well-earned hug from a family member after returning from a six-month deployment from Iraq
Photographs: US Air Force photo by Tech Sgt Kendra M Owenby
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