Thanking Troops, Obama Says Tonight’s Iraq Speech Won’t be a “Victory Lap”

Aug 31, 2010 2:35pm

ABC News’ Sunlen Miller reports: While thanking soldiers at Fort Bliss who served in the Iraq war for “a job well done,” President Obama said his prime-time address tonight is not going to be a victory lap. “I’m going to make a speech to the nation tonight, it’s not going to be a victory lap,”  the president said at Fort Bliss, in El Paso, Texas. “It’s not going to be self-congratulatory.  There’s still a lot of work that we’ve got to do to make sure that Iraq is an effective partner with us.  But the fact of the matter is that because of the extraordinary service that all of you have done, and so many people here at Fort Bliss have done, Iraq has an opportunity to create a better future for itself, and America is more secure.” Standing before 130 service men and woman and their families in the dining hall on the base, the president said his main intention for today’s visit – as well as during tonight’s speech – is one of thanks and to express his “deepest gratitude” on behalf of the country.  Since the start of the Iraq war, 200,000 personnel from Fort Bliss have deployed to Iraq, serving in every major phase of the war. “There are times where, in our country, we’ve got political disagreements,” Obama noted, “And appropriately we have big debates about war and peace.  But the one thing we don’t argue about is the fact that we’ve got the finest fighting force in the history of the world,” the president said. “So the main message I have tonight and the main message I have to you is congratulations on a job well done.” The president stressed the United States’ changing role in Iraq, from a combat mission to assistance and said there would be a “long road ahead” for the Iraqi people in terms of rebuilding their country. “The bottom line is — is that our combat phase is now over, we are in transition,” the president said, adding though that the work in Iraq is not done, “The work that continues is absolutely critical, providing training and assistance to Iraqi security forces, because there’s still violence in Iraq and they’re still learning how to secure their country the way they need to.” Later today President Obama is expected to talk with some of the transitional forces that will be deploying today. President Obama also briefly touched on Afghanistan, which he said he will speak about in his prime-time address tonight. Calling it a “tough slog “and a “very tough fight” ahead, the president said that casualties in Afghanistan are going up because the fight is being taken to al Qaeda and the Taliban and their allies.                                                                                       “It is going to be a tough slog, but what I know is that after 9/11 this country was unified in saying we are not going to let something like that happen again.  And we are going to go after those who perpetrated that crime, and we are going to make sure that they do not have safe haven,” he said. The president went around the room and shook the hands of the servicemen and women and told the that he “could not be prouder” of them for their “heroism.” As he left the room he turned to the troops and added, “I want all of you to know I’m thinking of you as I make decisions.” Today’s visit with soldiers at Fort Bliss follows President Obama’s visit yesterday to meet with wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC. -Sunlen Miller

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