Vice President Joe Biden spoke yesterday in Baghdad, emphasizing the importance of Operation New Dawn in the light of ending the combat operations in Iraq.
His message to an audience of troops at Camp Victory’s ad Faw Palace was that the U.S. military and diplomatic efforts are still very much a national priority.
“Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, but American engagement with Iraq will continue with the mission that begins today,” Biden said. “We are ramping up our civilian and diplomatic efforts to strengthen Iraqi sovereignty, stability and self-reliance at the very same time we are drawing down combat forces.”
“Our remaining troops — I might add, as combat ready, if need be, as any in our military — will advise and assist Iraqi forces, support partnered counterterrorism operations and protect our military and civilian personnel as well as our infrastructure.”
Fewer than 50,000 U.S. troops will remain in Iraq until the mission officially ends by Dec. 31, 2011. They will advise Iraqi security forces, while diplomats will assist Iraq’s government to develop ties with its neighbors and its economy.
Biden also recognized the more than 1.5 million U.S. troops who have served in Iraq.
“Our fighting men and women were given a mission in Iraq that was as complicated as any in our history,” the vice president said. “The high-speed invasion that toppled a tyrant became a grinding struggle against violent extremists.”
Biden also lauded Iraqi security forces, crediting their efforts throughout the past year in reducing violence in Iraq to its lowest levels since 2003.
Iraqi security forces are “increasingly ready to defend their citizens,” he said.
“Because of their competence, we have … been able to transfer thousands of square miles of territory and hundreds of bases to Iraqi control,” Biden noted.
The vice president also recognized the many Iraqis who have sacrificed their lives in the conflict, adding that Iraq and its citizens are now on a path to a secure and prosperous future.