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US troops leave Iraq with ‘heads high’


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Financial Times:

Barack Obama marked the symbolic end of the conflict in Iraq on Wednesday with a politically sensitive speech that celebrated the sacrifices of the US military and also accepted some of the aims of a war he once opposed.

Speaking at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the president told troops it was “harder to end a war than to begin one” but they were leaving Iraq with their “heads held high”.

The final US troops are to leave Iraq by the end of the year, a pledge that Mr Obama made as a presidential candidate but one that exposes him to harsh criticism from Republicans, which will intensify during next year’s election campaign if violence in Iraq rises again.

Iraq “is not a perfect place”, he told the soldiers and the decision to start the war had been controversial, with “patriots on both sides of the debate”. But the president added that “we are leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.”

Mr Obama, who once described the Iraq conflict as a “dumb war”, tried to defuse some of the political tensions surrounding the withdrawal by paying tribute to the soldiers with echoes of the unifying rhetoric that animated his 2008 campaign.

Describing the troops as the “9/11 generation”, the president told them that their service in Iraq demonstrated “there is nothing we Americans cannot do when we act together”.

Our troops can be proud of what they've done. Godspeed and welcome home.
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