Iraq combat exit no reason for celebration: Obama


Washington : The official end of the US combat role in Iraq is no reason for celebration, US President Barack Obama said Tuesday.

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“There’s still a lot of work that we’ve got to do to make sure that Iraq is an effective partner with us,” Obama told troops in Fort Bliss, Texas, who had seen service in Iraq.

Obama will mark the formal end of the US combat role in Iraq later Tuesday evening in an address from the White House.

US General Raymond Odierno Wednesday will hand over the command of the remaining 50,000 US troops in Iraq to his successor, who will carry on with training and counter-terrorism deployments.

The new mission, called “New Dawn,” will be under direction of the US State Department.

The speech is “not going to be a victory lap,” Obama said. “It’s not going to be self-congratulatory.”

The “victory lap” recalled the actions of his predecessor George W Bush, who just months after the Iraq war declared “mission accomplished.” Obama, who opposed the Iraq invasion, spoke with the former president on the phone Tuesday, deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton said. No details of their discussion were given.

Obama conceded that there have been “political disagreements,” but added that “America is more secure” after the Iraq war.

“Iraq has an opportunity to create a better future for itself,” he said.

Obama has shifted the US military focus to Afghanistan, which he has said was neglected under Bush, but also told the troops that the fight there “is going to be a tough slog.”

With continuing high unemployment and sluggish economic growth, Obama faces increasing pressure to put more resources into domestic issues. Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security advisor, told reporters that part of the context of ending the war in Iraq is “drawing down the resources we are spending in fighting wars overseas so that we can focus on our economy at home.”

In Obama’s 15-minute speech, he will also “touch on the economy,” Rhodes said.