Twenty months after taking office and promising the Americans and the world he would end the war in Iraq, President Barack Obama announced yesterday the seven-year combat mission is ending this month, with a complete drawdown of U.S. troops by Aug. 31.
Over the last 18 months, more than 90,000 U.S. troops have left Iraq. As Iraqi security forces take responsibility for securing their country, U.S. troops will transition into an advise-and-assist role, Obama said.
“And, consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all of our troops will be out of Iraq by the end of next year,” he continued. “Meanwhile, we will continue to build a strong partnership with the Iraqi people with an increased civilian commitment and diplomatic effort.”
A few weeks ago, when men and women from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, returned back home, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden were at Fort Drum to welcome them back. Obama stressed the commitment to U.S. troops does not end once they return to the United States.
“[It’s] only the beginning,” Obama said. “Part of ending a war responsibly is meeting our responsibility to the men and women who have fought it. Our troops and their families have made tremendous sacrifices to keep our nation safe and secure, and as a nation we have a moral obligation to serve our veterans as well as they have served us. ”
Speaking about building a “21st-century Department of Veterans Affairs,” Obama said how his administration has made one of the largest percentage increase in the VA’s budget in 30 years, as well as dramatically increasing funding for veterans’ health across the board. In particular, veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder will have “unprecedented resources” to get help to treat those kinds of war injuries.
In addition to caring for veterans and healing their wounds, Obama said the men and women who have served their country must be given the opportunities they need to further their education and support their families. Through the Post-9/11 GI Bill, some 300,000 veterans and families members have pursued a college degree. Others are taking advantage of job training and placement programs, Obama said.
“My administration will continue to do our part to support the brave men and women in uniform that have sacrificed so much,” the president said. “But supporting our troops and their families is not just the job of the federal government; it’s the responsibility of all Americans.”