President Obama this afternoon marked the milestone in the US war in Iraq: US troops left Iraqi cities and handed over control to the Iraqi military police.
Iraqis, he said, "are rightly treating this day as a day for celebration."
Obama plans to withdraw all US combat troops by August 2010, but the president said the US stands ready to help.
"Make no mistake, there will be difficult days ahead," noting the bombing today in Kirkuk.
But he said he's confident that the insurgents will fail and that the forces trying to pull Iraq into the "abyss" of violence are on the wrong side of history.
He also took time to praise US troops, who he said have completed every mission given to them. His full remarks are below:
I want to say a few words about an important milestone that we've reached in Iraq. Today, American troops have transferred control of all Iraqi cities and towns to Iraq's government and security forces. (Applause.) This transition was agreed to last year as part of our Status of Forces Agreement with the sovereign Iraqi government. It's a part of our strategy to responsibly end the war by removing all American combat brigades from Iraq by next September, and all of our troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.
So the Iraqi people are rightly treating this day as a cause for celebration. This is an important step forward, as a sovereign and united Iraq continues to take control of its own destiny. And with this progress comes responsibility. Iraq's future is in the hands of its own people. And Iraq's leaders must now make some hard choices necessary to resolve key political questions, to advance opportunity, and to provide security for their towns and their cities. In this effort, America will be a strong partner to the Iraqi people on behalf of their security and prosperity.
Make no mistake: There will be difficult days ahead. We know that the violence in Iraq will continue -- we see that already in the senseless bombing in Kirkuk earlier today. And there are those who will test Iraq's security forces, and the resolve of the Iraqi people, through more sectarian bombings and the murder of innocent civilians. But I'm confident that those forces will fail. The future belongs to those who build, not those who destroy. And today's transition is further proof that those who have tried to pull Iraq into the abyss of disunion and civil war are on the wrong side of history.
Finally, the very fact that Iraqis are celebrating this day is a testament to the courage, the capability, and commitment of every single American who has served in Iraq. (Applause.) That's worth applause. Through tour after tour of duty, our troops have overcome every obstacle to extend this precious opportunity to the Iraqi people. These women and men are not always in the headlines, but they're in our hearts and prayers, and we will forever honor their selfless service and sacrifice, as well as the service and sacrifice of their families. There is more work to be done, but we've made important progress in supporting a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq. And everyone who has served there, both in uniform as well as our civilians, deserves our thanks.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.