Obama's speech on August 31 declares combat in Iraq over
Saying it is "time to turn the page" on one of the most divisive chapters in American history, President Obama declared the U.S. war in Iraq over Tuesday night, telling the nation that he was fulfilling his campaign pledge to stop a war he had opposed from the start.
"Tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended," Obama said in his second prime-time address from the Oval Office. He heralded his belief "that out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization."
In his speech, the president sought to unshackle the nation from a military invasion, begun by his predecessor, that was supposed to swiftly depose a dictator, seize hidden weapons of mass destruction and leave behind a democratic government.
Instead, it dragged on for more than seven years as U.S. troops battled a growing insurgency. The war became a recruiting tool and training ground for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
Obama noted the "huge price" the United States paid during the long, wrenching conflict. Over the course of the war, 1.5 million troops served in Iraq, many of them returning for multiple tours. More than 4,400 died, and 32,000 were wounded.
The demands of the war stretched the limits of American military readiness, and its $740 billion cost far outpaced the original estimates.
After making the case in his remarks for withdrawing combat troops, Obama quickly pivoted to his other priorities. He said resources could now shift to the war in Afghanistan and to boosting the economy, which he labeled "our most urgent task."