VINEYARD HAVEN, Massachusetts (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Saturday Iraq could “chart its own course” and told Americans the drawdown of U.S. troops helped fulfill a promise he made during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Obama, who is vacationing on the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard, declared in his weekly radio and Internet address that “the war is ending” and pledged to take care of troops who are returning home.
The U.S. military recently cut its strength to under 50,000 troops in Iraq, helping to make good on Obama’s promise to end the war launched 7-1/2 years ago by his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.
Obama’s Saturday remarks may be a preview of a rare, televised address the president plans on Tuesday evening from the White House Oval Office about the troop drawdown.
“On Tuesday, after more than seven years, the United States of America will end its combat mission in Iraq and take an important step forward in responsibly ending the Iraq war,” Obama said.
“As a candidate for this office, I pledged I would end this war. As president, that is what I am doing.”
The White House is trying to emphasize Obama’s accomplishments ahead of November elections to bolster fellow Democrats, who are likely to lose seats and possibly majorities in one or both houses of Congress.
With economic growth slowing and unemployment still near double-digit levels, the White House hopes the fulfillment of a foreign policy promise will help offset the economic pain at the forefront of voters’ minds.
Obama said the United States had brought home more than 90,000 troops since he became president and Iraqis had taken the lead in security operations in many parts of the country.
“In the months ahead, our troops will continue to support and train Iraqi forces, partner with Iraqis in counterterrorism missions, and protect our civilian and military efforts,” he said.
“But the bottom line is this: the war is ending. Like any sovereign, independent nation, Iraq is free to chart its own course. And by the end of next year, all of our troops will be home.”
Obama highlighted measures his administration is taking to help military veterans and urged Americans to express their gratitude to returning troops.
Editing by Eric Beech