FLASHBACK—Obama: ‘We’re Leaving Behind a Sovereign, Stable and Self-Reliant Iraq’

By Terence P. Jeffrey | June 12, 2014 | 12:28pm EDT
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and President Barack Obama (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - When President Barack Obama removed the last U.S. forces from Iraq in December 2011, he announced that—as he had planned—the U.S. was leaving behind a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government.”

It was a "moment of success," he said.

On Feb. 27, 2009, a little more than a month after his first inauguration, Obama gave a speech at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina that the White House entitled, “Responsibly Ending the War in Iraq.”

Obama said then that his strategy was based on the “achievable goal” of a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant” Iraq--and that he intended to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of 2011, as had been envisioned in the Status of Forces agreement negotiated by the Bush Administration.

“Today, I can announce that our review is complete, and that the United States will pursue a new strategy to end the war in Iraq through a transition to full Iraqi responsibility,” said Obama. “This strategy is grounded in a clear and achievable goal shared by the Iraqi people and the American people: an Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant. To achieve that goal, we will work to promote an Iraqi government that is just, representative, and accountable, and that provides neither support nor safe-haven to terrorists.”

“And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011,” said Obama. “We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home with the honor that they have earned.”

Almost three years later, on Dec. 14, 2011, when he was removing the last U.S. troops from Iraq, Obama gave a speech at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Here he said his strategy based on building a sovereign, stable, self-reliant Iraq had succeeded.

“It’s harder to end a war than begin one,” Obama said at Fort Bragg. “Indeed, everything that American troops have done in Iraq--all the fighting and all the dying, the bleeding and the building, and the training and the partnering--all of it has led to this moment of success. Now, Iraq is not a perfect place. It has many challenges ahead. But we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people. We’re building a new partnership between our nations. And we are ending a war not with a final battle, but with a final march toward home. This is an extraordinary achievement, nearly nine years in the making.”

In the past seven months, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)—a terrorist group that sprang from al Qaeda—has captured Fallujah and Mosul, and is now intent on capturing the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

In February, CIA Director John Brennan told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that al Qaeda camps on both sides of the Syrian-Iraq border are a threat to the United States.

"Do you believe that there are training camps that have been established on either side of the Iraqi or Syrian border for the purposes of training al Qaida operatives?" House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers asked Brennan.

Brennan said: "There are camps inside of both Iraq and Syria that are used by al Qaida to develop capabilities that are applicable both in the theater as well as beyond.”

Chairman Rogers asked: "Do you believe that that ungoverned space presents a real threat to the United States of America, via al Qaida operations, or the West?”

"I do," said Brennan.

Obama had announced on Oct. 21, 2011, that all U.S. troops would in fact leave Iraq by the end of that year. The next day, the New York Times ran a story headlined: "Despite Difficult Talks, U.S. and Iraq Had Expected Some American Troops to Stay." The top of that story said:

“President Obama’s announcement on Friday that all American troops would leave Iraq by the end of the year was an occasion for celebration for many, but some top American military officials were dismayed by the announcement, seeing it as the president's putting the best face on a breakdown in tortured negotiations with the Iraqis. And for the negotiators who labored all year to avoid that outcome, it represented the triumph of politics over the reality of Iraq's fragile security's requiring some troops to stay, a fact everyone had assumed would prevail.”

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