Obama ends Iraq combat operations

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Pretoria - Declaring that it is time to "turn the page," US President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced the official end of US combat operations in Iraq, bringing to a close more than seven years of war in that country.

"Tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country," Obama said in his address from the White House.

In his speech, Obama balanced praise for the troops who fought and died in Iraq with his conviction that getting into the conflict had been a mistake in the first place.

He also emphasised that his primary job was to address the weak economy and other domestic issues.

"We have sent our young men and women to make enormous sacrifices in Iraq, and spent vast resources abroad at a time of tight budgets at home," Obama told Americans.

"Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility. Now, it's time to turn the page."

United States has spent over $7 000 billion in the war, with more than 4 400 troops killed and more than 30 000 others wounded. Overall costs of the war could amount to three trillion dollars if medical expenses for injured veterans are counted.

Obama has promised to pull all US troops out of Iraq by the end of 2011.

President Obama, who inherited the war from his predecessor, George W. Bush, also acknowledged the unfinished business, calling on Iraqi leaders to move forward with a sense of urgency to form an inclusive government. He said that while the combat mission is ending, the US's commitment to Iraq's future is not.

"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."

He promised to strengthen the middle class, improve education, jumpstart industries, end dependence on foreign oil, as well as unleash innovation.