Family and friends rejoiced as U.S. combat troops began arriving home after President Barack Obama annouced the end of America's combat mission in Iraq. Wikimedia Commons
After 7 years of war, Obama ends U.S. combat role, says priority now is nation building at home
By Paola Estrada
On March 20, 2003, American troops made their way across
the border from Kuwait to Iraq in what would be the beginning
of a much-disputed war. Seven years later on August 31, 2010,
President Barack Obama announced the withdrawal of American
combat troops from Iraq, marking the end of America's combat
mission in the country.
As the president addressed the nation from the Oval Office, the
last of the U.S. combat troops were already on their way across the
border once more — this time from Iraq to Kuwait.
"Operation Iraqi Freedom is over," Obama said. "The Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country."
Nearly 100,000 troops were ordered out of Iraq following the
president's address. Yet roughly 49,700 non-combat troops were
left behind to assist and continue to train the Iraqi military, according to an Aug. 31 New York Tmes article.
"In the end, only Iraqis can resolve their differences and police
their streets," Obama said. "Only Iraqis can build a democracy
within their borders. What America can do, and will do, is provide
support for the Iraqi people as both a friend and a partner."
Obama announced all U.S. troops were to withdraw by the end
In an address to the Iraqi people, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-
Maliki echoed Obama's hope for Iraq.
"Iraq today is sovereign and independent. With the execution of
the troop pullout, our relations with the United States have entered a
new stage between two equal, sovereign countries," al-Maliki said.
But not everyone was so optimistic.
New York Tmes reporter Steven Lee Myers wrote in his blog
that pulling out the troops before the Iraqi government was firmly in
place was a bad decision.
Anthony H. Cordesman, a military specialist at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies, wrote in the New York Tmes on
Aug. 21, "Political posturing is the norm in Washington, and claiming victory is far more popular than bearing the burden of leadership and dealing with reality. The Iraq war is not over and it is not
'won.' In fact, it is at a critical stage as at any time since 2003."
UH student Dan Wilden, an Army veteran of both the Iraq
and Afghanistan wars, said "ending" the war was only political
"They just pull out the combat troops," he said. "What really
happens is now it's a harder fight, and now we are not under the
premises of being at war because we no longer have the big threat
of saying, 'Hey, if you mess with us we are going to drop the infantry
on you. We are going to drop the cavalry on you. We are going to
take you out.' Now that's not there anymore. So now you just have
this combat support unit that is there ... fighting with their backs
against the wall, with one hand tied behind their backs. So the war
is not over; it's just over on paper."
Overshadowing the announcement of the troop pullout was the
news concerning the renewed focus on the war in Afghanistan. In
his address, Obama reasserted his plan of maintaining troops in
Afghanistan for a limited time only.
"As was the case in Iraq, we cannot do for Afghans what they
must ultimately do for themselves," he said.
For many U.S. soldiers, the news underscored the fact that their
homecoming was merely a temporary one.
"Everyone knows you are just coming home to go right back out
to Afghanistan," Wilden said.
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