The President met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki today to discuss a broad range of issues, including the future role of the United States in Iraq. The President gave remarks
in the Rose Garden alongside Prime Minister Maliki following their meeting.
The President noted that substantial progress has been made since Prime Minister Maliki’s first visit to Washington in 2006. This meeting comes three weeks after all U.S. troops withdrew from Iraqi cities, and transferred power to Iraq’s security forces. The President said we are in the midst of a full transition to Iraqi responsibility:
Recently, we took an important step forward by transferring control of all Iraqi cities and towns to Iraq’s security forces. This transition was part of our security agreement, and should send an unmistakable signal that we will keep our commitments with the sovereign Iraqi government. As I said before, we seek no bases in Iraq, nor do we make any claim on Iraq’s territory or resources.
Going forward, we will continue to provide training and support for Iraqi security forces that are capable and nonsectarian. We'll move forward with our strategy to responsibly remove all American combat brigades from Iraq by the end of next August, and to fulfill our commitment to remove all American troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.
As we move forward, Prime Minister Maliki and I have no doubt that there will be some tough days ahead. There will be attacks on Iraqi security forces and the American troops supporting them. There are still those in Iraq who would murder innocent men, women and children. There are still those who want to foment sectarian conflict. But make no mistake: Those efforts will fail.
The Iraqi people have already rejected these forces of division and destruction. And American troops have the capability, the support and flexibility they need to stand with our Iraqi partners on behalf of a sovereign, secure, and self-reliant Iraq. Because we believe that the future does not belong to those who would destroy -- it belongs to those who would build.
To that end, America strongly supports efforts by the Iraqi government to promote national unity, which will help ensure that people in all parts of Iraq can live in peace and prosperity.
(President Barack Obama meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, left, in the Oval Office, Wednesday, July 22, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President stated that the two leaders are forging a comprehensive partnership between the United States and Iraq based on mutual interests and respect:
Prime Minister Maliki and I also agreed to build a broader basis for cooperation between our nations. The United States and Iraq have known difficult times together. Now both of us agree that the bonds forged between Americans and Iraqis in war can pave the way for progress that can be forged in peace.
The Strategic Framework Agreement agreed to last year helps lay the groundwork for this progress. America stands ready to help the Iraqi government build their capacity to provide basic services and to promote the rule of law. And together, Americans and Iraqis can expand economic cooperation and trade that opens new doors of opportunity. Together, we can broaden our educational, our cultural, and scientific engagement to make a positive difference in the lives of our people. And together, we can take steps to advance security and prosperity throughout the region, and around the globe. And Prime Minister Maliki and I are both deeply humbled by the sacrifices that have been made by Iraqis and Americans to create this opportunity.
The President also praised the sacrifices of both Iraqis and Americans on behalf of a better future, and thanked the troops for doing an outstanding job. The President reaffirmed that he is working to end the war, and will have all American troops out of Iraq by 2011:
But what we've seen is, is that the violence levels have remained low, the cooperation between U.S. forces and Iraqi forces has remained high, and we have every confidence that we will continue to work together cooperatively and make adjustments where necessary to assure that, as we move into the national elections, that Iraq continues on the progress of stability and that Iraqi security forces are continually ramping up their capabilities so that ultimately we are going to be able to fulfill our commitment to pull out our troops entirely and interact with Iraq as a full, sovereign country that it is.
(President Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki walk from the Oval Office for a joint press availability in the Rose Garden at the White House, Wednesday, July 22, 2009. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)