President Obama announces end of U.S. Combat Mission in Iraq

Presidential Address airs live to the nation on abc.
Presidential Address airs live to the nation on abc.
Lufkin veteran, Alfred Navarro
Lufkin veteran, Alfred Navarro
Lufkin veteran, Donn Turner
Lufkin veteran, Donn Turner
Lufkin veteran, Carl Zylstra
Lufkin veteran, Carl Zylstra

By Whitney Grunder - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – President Barack Obama has announced that America is officially ending its combat mission in Iraq.

It comes seven years, five months and 13 days after American troops arrived.

President Obama spoke from the same desk President Bush used in 2001 to declare war in Iraq.

Although Tuesday, Mr. Obama is declaring the official end of Operation Iraqi Freedom, he warns this does not mean the danger is over.

"This was my pledge to the American people as a candidate for this office. Last February, I announced a plan that would bring our combat brigades out of Iraq, while redoubling our efforts to strengthen Iraq's security forces and support its government and people. That is what we have done."

Some 50,000 troops remain in Iraq, a fraction of the 170,000 during the troop surge.

Unless the current agreement is extended, the rest will be gone at the end of next year.

The announcement comes as good news to many but some East Texas veterans say there's still work to be done.

"When the Iraqi people can defend themselves and stand up to any kind of internal attack, then it's time to pull out," said Lufkin Vet Donn Turner.

During his speech, President Obama commended the sacrifices of the men and women serving our country.

"At every turn, America's men and women in uniform have served with courage and resolve. As Commander In Chief, I'm incredibly proud of their service."

That pride is something East Texas vets share.

"They did what they were told to do and when they come back it will be a success for them," said Lufkin Vet Alfred Navarro.

While some veterans say they are of course happy to have the troops come home, they're still concerned the country won't be stable enough to help the Iraqi people move forward.

"There's going to be so much internal strife in that country that it's going to break, in my eyes, into a civil war," said Turner.

"I don't think it's ever going to be accomplished, just due to the fact, the bombings that are going on here now, it's going to be unrest," said Lufkin Vet Carl Zylstra.

Despite these concerns, vets look forward to welcoming home their comrades.

"I want to see us out of Iraq and Afghanistan as soon as we can. We've been there long enough," said Zylstra.

The President spoke about re-directing resources to Afghanistan.

"As we speak, Al- Qaeda continues to plot against us and his leadership remains anchored in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We will disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda," said President Obama.

Lufkin vets say with a long road ahead, a clear message remains embedded within them.

"They know that we're not going to just lie down. We're going to keep fighting," said Zylstra.

The President has ordered the deployment of additional troops to Afghanistan but plans to begin the transition to Afghanistan responsibility next August.

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