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 By next November, the surge forces will be withdrawn, and by the end of 2014 all American forces will be out of the Central Asian country and Afghan security forces will be responsible for protecting the nation.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)