Events in Iraq, Libya Showcase American Leadership

WASHINGTON — Events in Libya and Iraq this past week empha­size the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion has renewed Amer­i­can lead­er­ship in the world, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma said in his week­ly address to the nation today.

The pres­i­dent stressed that his deci­sion to com­plete the with­draw­al of U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year ful­fills a promise he made dur­ing the 2008 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. He also said the Amer­i­can role in Libya in help­ing to pro­tect the Libyan peo­ple as they fought to free them­selves from the rule of Moam­mar Gad­hafi “was the right thing to do.”

The administration’s strat­e­gy on Iraq was cor­rect and it has suc­ceed­ed in pro­duc­ing a sta­ble, demo­c­ra­t­ic Arab nation in the Mid­dle East. “Last year, I announced the end of our com­bat mis­sion in Iraq,” he said. “We’ve already removed more than 100,000 troops, and Iraqi forces have tak­en full respon­si­bil­i­ty for the secu­ri­ty of their own coun­try.”

The progress and suc­cess was due to “the extra­or­di­nary sac­ri­fices of our men and women in uni­form,” the pres­i­dent said.

They have made it pos­si­ble for the Iraqi peo­ple to forge their own future. “And now the rest of our troops will be home for the hol­i­days,” he said.

The Amer­i­can mil­i­tary effort in Libya helped pre­vent a mas­sacre and gave the Libyan peo­ple a chance to defeat Gad­hafi. “With­out putting a sin­gle U.S. ser­vice mem­ber on the ground, we achieved our objec­tives,” Oba­ma said. “Soon, our NATO mis­sion will come to a suc­cess­ful end even as we con­tin­ue to sup­port the Libyan peo­ple, and peo­ple across the Arab world, who seek a demo­c­ra­t­ic future.”

These two suc­cess­es are part of a larg­er sto­ry, the pres­i­dent main­tained. “After a decade of war, we’re turn­ing the page and mov­ing for­ward, with strength and con­fi­dence,” he said.

The draw­down in Iraq allowed Amer­i­can offi­cials to refo­cus on Afghanistan. The surge in the coun­try allowed the coali­tion to reverse the Taliban’s momen­tum and inflict griev­ous casu­al­ties to al-Qai­da — includ­ing killing Osama bin Laden.

And the pres­i­dent has ordered the begin­ning of with­drawals from Afghanistan. By next Novem­ber, the surge forces will be with­drawn, and by the end of 2014 all Amer­i­can forces will be out of the Cen­tral Asian coun­try and Afghan secu­ri­ty forces will be respon­si­ble for pro­tect­ing the nation.

“To put this in per­spec­tive, when I took office, rough­ly 180,000 troops were deployed in these wars,” the pres­i­dent said. “By the end of this year that num­ber will be cut in half, and an increas­ing num­ber of our troops will con­tin­ue to come home.”

As the wars wind down, Amer­i­cans can turn their atten­tions to rebuild­ing the U.S. econ­o­my. “Over the past decade, we spent a tril­lion dol­lars on war, bor­rowed heav­i­ly from over­seas and invest­ed too lit­tle in the great­est source of our nation­al strength — our own peo­ple,” he said. “Now, the nation we need to build is our own.”

Amer­i­cans must approach the chal­lenge of rebuild­ing the coun­try the same way Amer­i­can troops faced their mis­sions in Iraq and Afghanistan — with urgency and uni­ty, the pres­i­dent said. “That’s why I’m call­ing on Con­gress to pass the Amer­i­can Jobs Act, so we can rebuild our coun­try — our schools, our roads, our bridges — and put our vet­er­ans, con­struc­tion work­ers, teach­ers, cops and fire­fight­ers back to work,” Oba­ma said. “And that’s why I hope all of us can draw strength from the exam­ple of our men and women in uni­form.

“They’ve met their respon­si­bil­i­ties to Amer­i­ca. Now it’s time to meet ours,” he con­tin­ued. “It’s time to come togeth­er and show the world why the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca remains the great­est source for free­dom and oppor­tu­ni­ty that the world has ever known.”

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