Obama marks end of long US combat mission in Iraq, declares it’s ‘time to turn the page’

By Ben Feller, AP
Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Obama ends Iraq combat effort: ‘Time to turn page’

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Tuesday declared an end to the U.S. combat role in Iraq after more than seven years of war, saying the country’s future now is up to its own people. “It is time to turn the page,” said the president, who opposed the war from the start.

Obama is keeping up to 50,000 troops in Iraq for support and counterterrorism training, and the final forces won’t be out until late next year. But he sought to mark Aug. 31, 2010 as a milestone in one of the defining chapters in recent American history.

“Ending this war is not only in Iraq’s interest — it is in our own,” Obama said in advance excerpts of a prime-time address he was to deliver from the Oval Office. “The United States has paid a huge price to put the future of Iraq in the hands of its people.”

In a telling sign of the domestic troubles weighing on his own nation, Obama reserved part of a war address to campaign for his efforts to revitalize the U.S. economy. On a night focused on his role as commander in chief, he said his “central responsibility as president” was to get people back to work.

“Our most urgent task is to restore our economy,” Obama said.

The ending of the combat mission on this date had been known for 18 months. Yet given the stakes, the toll in American lives and dollars and the long consuming debate, Obama sought to explain it to the country.

“Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country,” Obama said. He made sure to remind the nation that he had promised to meet this goal and shrink U.S. involvement by now, “and that is what we have done.”

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