– President Obama will outline plans to scale back U.S. troop presence in Iraq in a speech Monday to the national convention of the Disabled American Veterans in Atlanta –
From the Atlanta-Journal Constitution:
Excerpts from the president’s speech, released Monday morning:
“Today, your legacy of service is carried on by a new generation of Americans. Some stepped forward in a time of peace, not foreseeing years of combat. Others stepped forward in this time of war, knowing they could be sent into harm’s way. For the past nine years, in Afghanistan and Iraq, they have borne the burdens of war. They – and their families – have faced the greatest test in the history of our all-volunteer force—serving tour after tour, year after year. Through their extraordinary service they have written their own chapters in the American story, and by any measure have earned their place among the greatest of generations.
“Now, one of those chapters is nearing an end. As a candidate for President, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end. Shortly after taking office, I announced our new strategy for Iraq and for a transition to full Iraqi responsibility. And I made it clear that by August 31, 2010 America’s combat mission in Iraq would end. And that is exactly what we are doing—as promised, on schedule.
“Already, we have closed or turned over to Iraq hundreds of bases. We’re moving out millions of pieces of equipment in one of the largest logistics operations that we’ve seen in decades. By the end of this month, we’ll have brought more than 90,000 of our troops home from Iraq since I took office—more than 90,000.
“Today – even as terrorists try to derail Iraq’s progress – because of the sacrifices of our troops and their Iraqi partners, violence in Iraq continues to be near the lowest it’s been in years. And next month, we will change our military mission from combat to supporting and training Iraqi security forces. In fact, in many parts of the country, Iraqis have already taken the lead for security.
“As agreed to with the Iraqi government, we will maintain a transitional force until we remove all our troops from Iraq by the end of next year. During this period, our forces will have a focused mission — supporting and training Iraqi forces, partnering with Iraqis in counterterrorism missions, and protecting our civilian and military efforts. These are dangerous tasks. And there are still those with bombs and bullets who will try to stop Iraq’s progress. The hard truth is we have not seen the end of American sacrifice in Iraq.
“But make no mistake, our commitment in Iraq is changing — from a military effort led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats. And as we mark the end of America’s combat mission in Iraq, a grateful America must pay tribute to all who served there.
“For our nation has had vigorous debates about the Iraq War. There are patriots who supported going to war, and patriots who opposed it. But there has never been any daylight between us when it comes to supporting, the more than one million Americans in uniform have served in Iraq — far more than any conflict since Vietnam.
“These men and women from across our country have done more than meet the challenges of this young century. Through their extraordinary courage, confidence and commitment, these troops and veterans have proven themselves as a new generation of American leaders. While our country has sometimes been divided, they have fought together as one. While other individuals and institutions have shirked responsibility, they have welcomed it. And while it is easy to be daunted by overwhelming challenges, the generation that has served in Iraq has overcome every test before them.”