Barack Obama has declared that US combat operations in Iraq are over.
The last combat brigade crossed into Kuwait two weeks ago; last night’s announcement came on the day of the US president’s self-imposed deadline to end a war he had always opposed.
In a televised address given from the Oval Office, he said:
“Ending this war is not only in Iraq’s interest – it’s in our own. The United States has paid a huge price to put the future of Iraq in the hands of its people. We have sent our young men and women to make enormous sacrifices in Iraq and spent vast resources abroad at a time of tight budgets at home.”
Just under 50,000 US troops will stay behind to help the Iraqi army fight insurgents. They may not be there in a combat role but their lives are still at risk. The US deathtoll in Iraq will almost certainly continue to rise.
In seven years, nearly 4,500 have been killed and more than 30,000 wounded in action.
With the US military now relieved of most of its burden in Iraq, it can focus on its other foreign conflict: Afghanistan.
Obama has said the transfer of responsibility for security to Afghan forces will begin by this time a year from now.