Biden Expresses Gratitude to U.S., Iraqi Forces

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2011 — Joined by Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Mali­ki and Iraqi Pres­i­dent Jalal Tal­a­bani in Bagh­dad yes­ter­day, Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden thanked U.S. and Iraqi armed forces for their sac­ri­fices, com­mit­ment and suc­cess.

“I also know you gen­tle­men will acknowl­edge that Amer­i­ca sent you the very best our coun­try has to offer — our young men and women, … but also their lead­ers,” Biden told the Iraqi lead­ers, prais­ing the lead­er­ship of U.S. Ambas­sador to Iraq James F. Jef­frey and Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, com­man­der of U.S. Forces Iraq.

The vice pres­i­dent sur­veyed the U.S. and Iraqi troops assem­bled in Al Faw palace, all “bound togeth­er by a shared sac­ri­fice in the ser­vice of both their coun­tries.”

Giv­en a mis­sion “as com­pli­cat­ed and as chal­leng­ing as any in our his­to­ry,” they adapt­ed with the chang­ing sit­u­a­tion on the ground tack­led every­thing they were asked to do, he said.

“You suc­ceed­ed,” he said. “You helped defeat a tyrant, helped beat back vio­lent extrem­ists, and enabled the rise of a new demo­c­ra­t­ic nation, and gave the Iraqi peo­ple a chance, at long last, for a bet­ter future — a future they deserve.”

Work­ing side by side, the U.S. troops and Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces “have laid the foun­da­tion for a long-term, strate­gic part­ner­ship between our nations and also for an Iraq that, against all odds, can serve as a source of sta­bil­i­ty not only for its peo­ple, but here in the region, and for years to come,” he said.

Biden not­ed how far the sit­u­a­tion in Iraq has pro­gressed, and he acknowl­edged the troops’ “hero­ic work” that made it pos­si­ble. “Because of you and the work those of you in uni­form have done, we are now able to end this war,” he said.

The Unit­ed States has kept its promis­es � to remove all U.S. troops from Iraqi cities, to end its com­bat mis­sion last August and reduce its forces in Iraq to 50,000, and now, to remove all troops by the year’s end, Biden not­ed.

Biden shared Maliki’s obser­va­tion that some have ques­tioned whether Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces would be ready to assume full secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty for their coun­try.

“But the Iraq secu­ri­ty forces proved to be more than ready,” he said. “You met the chal­lenge. Through­out the down­turn of Unit­ed States forces and coali­tion forces, you kept your peo­ple safe. And vio­lence has remained at its low­est lev­el since 2003 — because of you.”

Now comes a time of tran­si­tion, Biden said, as the Unit­ed States and Iraq explore ways to expand their rela­tion­ship for the future, call­ing it a new chap­ter and a fresh start that both the Iraqi and Amer­i­can peo­ple want and deserve.

The strate­gic frame­work agree­ment between Iraq and the Unit­ed States will guide this rela­tion­ship, with broad coop­er­a­tion across wide areas he said, not­ing that unlike the secu­ri­ty agree­ment, it does not expire.

It rep­re­sents “a fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent type of rela­tion­ship, ground­ed in civil­ian coop­er­a­tion between equal sov­er­eigns,” he said, and a long-term com­pre­hen­sive rela­tion­ship between the two nations.

“It means Amer­i­ca will remain deeply engaged here in Iraq, and through­out the region,” he said. The Unit­ed States will remain a loy­al part­ner, he added.

Biden offered high praise for U.S. ser­vice mem­bers and Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces for paving the way for a new gen­er­a­tion of Iraqis to face a hope­ful future with decreased vio­lence.

“It was the sac­ri­fice and brav­ery and pro­fes­sion­al­ism of all of you assem­bled before me in uni­form that made it pos­si­ble,” he said. “And it will not and should not be for­got­ten — either in Iraq, or in my home coun­try of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca.”

He paid spe­cial trib­ute to the 4,486 who made the ulti­mate sac­ri­fice, and more than 30,000 who were wound­ed in Iraq.

“We hon­or their sac­ri­fice, as well as yours, and we take immense pride and suc­cess in what you have done,” he told the assem­bly, not­ing the nation’s respon­si­bil­i­ty to care for its vet­er­ans.

“We owe you,” he said. “The only sacred oblig­a­tion our nation has is to care for those who we send to war, and care for them when they come home.”

As the last of U.S. forces return home this month and their mis­sion ends in Iraq, Biden acknowl­edged that the threats they con­front­ed haven’t dis­ap­peared. He expressed con­fi­dence, how­ev­er, that the Iraqis are ready to con­front them.

“Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces have been well trained [and] pre­pared, and you are ful­ly capa­ble of meet­ing the chal­lenge,” he said. “And Iraq’s emerg­ing, inclu­sive polit­i­cal cul­ture will be the ulti­mate guar­an­tor … of this sta­bil­i­ty.”

Biden chal­lenged the Iraqis to seize the oppor­tu­ni­ty to pro­vide their peo­ple a nor­mal, pros­per­ous future, know­ing that the Unit­ed States remains a com­mit­ted part­ner.

“Our forces are leav­ing with their heads held high,” he said. “But the hard-won ties between our two nations, pray God, will live on.”

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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