That meant bringing our troops home after nearly a decade of war.
As important, it meant helping Iraqis build a sovereign, stable, self-reliant country, with a representative government that could become a partner in the region, and no safe haven for terrorists.
On our first full day of work after inauguration, President Obama hosted a cabinet-level meeting to begin to chart the course toward that goal.
A month later, when the United States still had 144,000 troops on the ground, the President determined to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraqi cities by the summer of 2009; end our combat mission and get down to 50,000 troops by September 2010; and fulfill President Bush’s Security Agreement with the Iraqi government by drawing down all of our troops by December 31, 2011.
Under the leadership of President Obama and Vice President Biden — who the President asked to oversee our Iraq policy, and who has made 8 trips to Iraq since being elected — we have followed that path to the letter.
At every significant step along the way, many predicted that the violence would return and Iraq would slide back toward sectarian war.
Those predictions proved wrong.
Over the past three years, violence has declined and remains at historic lows—even after we completed the drawdown of U.S. forces late last year. Weekly security incidents fell from an average of 1,600 in 2007-2008 to fewer than 100 today.
That is a credit to our troops—who succeeded, at great cost, in restoring a measure of stability when all looked to be lost; and who trained an Iraqi Army that is now, in defiance of the doubters, capably providing security for its citizens.
This created the time and space for what Vice President Biden calls the most important development in Iraq in recent years: politics supplanting violence as the dominant means of settling disputes and advancing interests.
Iraqis wrestled with a series of political crises—over the election law, the de-Baathification process, the election itself and government formation—that at an earlier phase of the conflict would have erupted into violence.
Each and every time, Iraqi leaders resolved their differences at the negotiating table and through the political process with the steady support of our Embassy, led today by one of our nation’s toughest and smartest diplomats, Jim Jeffrey.
And in December, after more than eight wrenching years, President Obama kept his promise to end the Iraq war—responsibly.