Operation Iraqi Freedom is over and it is time for a shift in focus to serving American interests, President Barack Obama said in a televised address Tuesday night.
The address lasted just over 18 minutes and was given from the Oval Office.
Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq we have met our responsibility,” Obama said. “Now, it is time to turn the page.”
Senior strategic communication major Sean Strasburger said he thought the address was formal and signified the end of something.
“It was tying the ribbon,” he said. “It’s like he’s finishing off the job, but at the same time there could be more to be done with it.”
Even so, Strasburger said he thought a shift in focus is exactly what Americans need.
“We could use the much needed resources, manpower and everything, back [in] the workforce because those are qualified people coming back,” he said.
Obama supported his decision to conclude America’s combat mission in Iraq by reminding audience members of the promise he made when he took office as well as the current condition in Iraq.
“Last February, I announced a plan that would bring our combat brigades out of Iraq, while redoubling our efforts to strengthen Iraq’s security forces and support its government and people,” Obama said. “That is what we have done.”
He went on to encourage Iraq’s elected leaders to continue to build a “representative [and] accountable” government and that the U.S. commitment to Iraq does not terminate with the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“Only Iraqis can build a democracy within their borders,” he said. “What America can do, and will do, is provide support for the Iraqi people as both a friend and a partner.”
With the reduction of forces in Iraq, Obama said he intends to reallocate military resources to fighting al-Qaida forces still plotting against the U.S. in Afghanistan.
“As with the surge in Iraq, these forces will be in place for a limited time to provide space for Afghans to build their capacity and secure their own future,” he said.
Obama also said he wanted to place more importance on issues facing Americans within American borders8212;in particular unemployment rates and reviving the education system.
Throughout the address, the president recognized the many sacrifices of troops and their families over the past seven and a half years. He said veterans returning home would receive health care and benefits, as well as the means to pursue college degrees.
“Part of ending a war responsibly is standing by those who have fought it,” he said.
Obama concluded his speech by again recognizing the loss and sacrifice faced by American troops and their families and the significance of their actions to the future our nation.
“Our troops are the steel in our ship of state,” he said. “Though our nation may be travelling through rough waters, they give us confidence that our course is true and that beyond the pre-dawn darkness, better days lie ahead.”