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Obama visits Fort Bragg to mark end of Iraq war

Posted December 14, 2011

— President Barack Obama saluted troops returning from Iraq Wednesday, declaring that the nearly nine-year war there is ending honorably, "not with a final battle, but with a final march toward home."

Marking the conclusion of the war at a military base that's seen more than 200 deaths since fighting began in Iraq, Obama never tried to declare victory. It was a war that he opposed from the start, inherited as president and is now bringing to a close, leaving behind an Iraq that is still struggling.

But he sought to declare a noble end to a fight that has cost nearly 4,500 American lives and left about 32,000 wounded.

"The war in Iraq will soon belong to history, and your service belongs to the ages," he said, applauding the troops' "extraordinary achievement."

Sgt. Joshua Buxton said he feels a sense of accomplishment.

"Everybody should feel like we have accomplished something, altogether as one, as a team. We did it. It is what it is, and we do what we do on a daily basis. We get the job done," he said.

Major Detrice Mosby spent a year in Iraq in 2007, a violent year when the end of the war seemed so far away. On Wednesday, she was sitting close to her husband, within view of the president telling her "job well done."

"I think we've done our time over there. I think we served their country the best we could, and it's time for them to pick up the ball," Mosby said.

Sharon Radford, who served in the Air Force and whose son served in Iraq, said seeing the president at her home base was "a lifetime opportunity."

"Words cannot explain it or tell how much I appreciate it, just to be here and to share this moment," she said.

Sgt. David Brown said he is "overjoyed" to see the troops return home.

"I'm ecstatic to see the war finally over, and we're done, and everybody's starting to come home," he said.

About 3,500 Fort Bragg troops have been in Iraq the past few months, and nearly all of them are expected to be home for Christmas

All U.S. troops are to be out of Iraq Dec. 31, though Obama has pledged that the U.S. will continue civilian assistance for Iraq as it faces an uncertain future in a volatile region of the world.

President visits Fort Bragg, marks end of Iraq war President visits Fort Bragg, marks end of Iraq war

Even as majorities in the U.S. public favor ending the war, some Republicans have criticized Obama's withdrawal, arguing he's leaving behind an unstable Iraq that could hurt U.S. interests and fall subject to influence from neighboring Iran.

Obama, appearing with first lady Michelle Obama, highlighted the human side of the war, reflecting on the bravery and sacrifices of U.S. forces now on their way back home. He recalled the start of the war, a time when he was only an Illinois state senator and many of the warriors before him were in grade school.

He noted the early battles that defeated and deposed Saddam Hussein and what he called "the grind of insurgency" — roadside bombs, snipers and suicide attacks.

"Your will proved stronger than the terror of those who tried to break it," he said.

Upon his arrival in Fort Bragg Wednesday, Obama met with five enlisted service members who had recently returned from combat. He also met with the family of a soldier killed overseas.

Obama has on several occasions addressed his reasons for ending the war, casting it as a promise kept after he ran for president as an anti-war candidate and speaking of the need to refocus U.S. attention on rebuilding the troubled economy at home.

Obama's approval rating on handling the situation in Iraq has been above 50 percent since last fall, and in a new Associated Press-GfK poll, has ticked up four points since October to 55 percent. Among independents, his approval rating tops 50 percent for the first time since this spring.

With the economy foremost on people's minds, fewer now consider the war a top issue. Fifty-one percent said it was extremely or very important to them personally, down from 58 percent in October, placing it behind 13 of 14 issues tested in the poll.

It was the president's first visit to Fort Bragg, which is home to Army Special Operations, the 18th Airborne Corps and the 82nd Airborne, among others. Special Forces troops from Fort Bragg were among the first soldiers in Iraq during the 2003 invasion and its paratroopers helped lead the 2007 troop increase.

North Carolina, which Obama narrowly won in 2008, also is an important state for the 2012 presidential election and will host the Democratic convention.

In his speech, Obama said that Iraq "is not a perfect place."

But he added that "we are leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people. We are building a new partnership between our nations."

___

Associated Press writers Erica Werner and Martha Waggoner and AP Deputy Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.

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  • christopher27519 Dec 15, 2011

    This is the same guy who is taking credit for ending the Iraq War yet was so critical of Bush's advocacy of a troop surge which ultimately created the conditions for victory?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yAt6SoZbkE

  • nonPC Dec 15, 2011

    THANK YOU TO THE SOLDIERS AND THEIR FAMILIES!! THE BEST OF ALL OF US!

  • Haygrower Dec 15, 2011

    Think about it the country is better off when he is on the golf course---at least his mind is on the game and not on tearing down the country---question while I'm here---why can't the head strong democrats see that the democrats of the 60'S are a far cry from the now day democrats---Nancy & Harry how can anyone support them---I have a dear friend who is democrate and would vote for the likes of sadam because he is democrate--all because " Paa" said always vote democrate and Paa has been dead for 20 or more years---what happened to caring about our country???

  • WooHoo2You Dec 14, 2011

    o did he declare Victory or did he just get back in his limo and head for the golf course?-Ripcord

    No for his record number of vacation days mostly spent at a ranch in Texas...wait that was the last 'leader' we had...

    Btw, what did we win again?

  • Ripcord Dec 14, 2011

    So did he declare Victory or did he just get back in his limo and head for the golf course?

  • WooHoo2You Dec 14, 2011

    He thinks that bringing home the troops is going to get him more votes next year.- ke4wpd

    Or maybe he thinks it is fulfillingh is campaign promises and is the right thing to do.

  • WooHoo2You Dec 14, 2011

    I am so tired of the lies. Folks my son is currently in Iraq, well in Kuwait...His whole Brigade will remain in Kuwait for their full year...So when I hear our President and our News Media state that all soldiers will leave Iraq and be home for the Holidays it makes us military families so MAD>>>IT is a full blown lie.- tholtnc

    So Iraq is Kuwait and Kuwait is Iraq? So Mexico is the US and the US is Mexico too right?

  • hlpulley Dec 14, 2011

    He never stops campaining,by next november he will have added at least one more Trillion dollars to the U.S.debt in jet fuel alone.

  • WooHoo2You Dec 14, 2011

    o what happens when we leave and the terrorist take over iraq again? We cannot go back in. Who will get blamed?

    Who will take over? My guess is below:- vraptor

    How many Americans on American soil were attacked by Iraqis before the war?

  • WooHoo2You Dec 14, 2011

    Geosol you are a genius! Thanks for your insight! You worry about increased terrorism? Now that Obama has handed over the Middle East to the Muslim Brotherhood, yankee1

    So how would have the all mighty bush have solved this? In under 2 years not 10 please...

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