Hours before addressing the nation, President Obama told US troops just back from Iraq that his speech outlining the withdrawal of combat forces "is not going to be a victory lap" nor a cause for celebration. "There's still a lot of work that we've got to do." Still, "the main message I have tonight, and the main message I have to you, is congratulations on a job well done," Obama told soldiers at the Army's Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. He also noted that there remained "a tough fight ahead in Afghanistan ... A tough slog."
Before his visit, Obama telephoned former President George W. Bush, who ordered US troops to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein in March 2003. Aides described the phone call from Air Force One as brief and declined to reveal what was said. Other speech highlights:
- Noting that the war was a source of "political disagreements" at home, Obama said "the one thing that we don't argue about is the fact that we have the finest fighting force in the world."
- "The fact of the matter is that because of the extraordinary service that all of you have done and so many people here at Fort Bliss have done, Iraq has an opportunity to create better future for itself and America is more secure."
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