WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2011 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, en route to Indonesia on the first leg of a three-nation overseas trip, issued the following message concerning President Barack Obama’s announcement today that all U.S. forces will be out of Iraq by the end of the year:
The United States and Iraq affirmed today that the U.S. will fulfill its commitments under the current U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement and withdraw all of our military forces by the end of 2011.
Today’s announcement means that at the end of this year, there will be a clear end to the U.S. combat presence in Iraq. I wanted to take this opportunity to express my profound gratitude and appreciation to our men and women in uniform who have served in Iraq since 2003.
Our troops and their families have borne a heavy burden during more than eight years of war, and paid a great price. Yet it is a testament to their strength and resilience that we are now able to bring this war to a responsible end. Thanks to their service and sacrifice, Iraq is ready to govern and defend itself and to contribute to security and stability in a vital part of the world.
We will now turn our full attention to pursuing a long-term strategic partnership with Iraq based on mutual interests and mutual respect. Our goal will be to establish a normal relationship similar to others in the region that focuses on meeting security and training needs. Iraq is a sovereign nation that must determine how to secure its own future. Going forward, we will work closely with the Iraqi government and their armed forces to help them continue to build a stronger and more prosperous country.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)