Declaring no victory after seven years of bloodshed, President Barack Obama on Tuesday ended the U.S. combat mission in Iraq, telling millions who were divided over the war in his country and around the world: “It is time to turn the page.”
From the Oval Office, where President George W. Bush first announced the invasion that would come to define his time in office, Obama said bluntly: “Our most urgent task is to restore our economy.” It was a telling sign of the domestic troubles weighing on Obama’s nation and his own presidency that he would put such emphasis on the dire state of U.S. joblessness in a major war address.
Even in turning control of the war over to Iraqis – and trying to cap one of the most divisive chapters in recent American history – Obama is escalating the conflict in Afghanistan. He pledged anew that the United States would keep up the fight in that war, the longest one since Vietnam.
And in Iraq, for all the finality, the war is not over. More Americans are likely to die. The country is plagued by violence and political instability, and Iraqis struggle with constant shortages of electricity and water.
Obama is keeping up to 50,000 troops in Iraq for support and counterterrorism training, and the last forces are not due to leave until the end of 2011 at the latest.