Obama asks country to welcome soldiers returning from Iraq

President Obama on Monday asked the country to join him in welcoming home soldiers returning from Iraq.

In a message posted on the White House website, Obama said the country was at a historic moment in ending the military’s combat mission in Iraq after seven years.

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“As both a candidate and president, I promised to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end. Now we are taking an important step forward in delivering on that promise,” Obama said.

The Web page also invites the public to offer their thanks to soldiers returning from Iraq. It was unveiled on the eve of a prime-time address Obama is set to deliver Tuesday evening from the Oval Office on the end of the combat mission.

Fewer than 50,000 troops will remain in Iraq as the combat mission ends. The remaining troops are scheduled to return by the end of next year. In the interim, they are to offer support to Iraq’s soldiers.  

“We will forge a strong partnership with an Iraq that still faces enduring challenges,” Obama said.

The president noted that nearly 100,000 troops have returned since he took office. Obama’s presidential campaign was built on ending the Iraq war, and his position on the conflict helped him win the Democratic primary.

Testimonials from several citizens as well as prominent Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), were posted on the new website Monday night.

Obama acknowledged in his message that the Iraq war had divided the country, but he said everyone could agree that the country owes “troops, veterans and military families a debt of gratitude for their outstanding service to our nation.”

“They have put their lives on the line and endured long separations from their family and loved ones,” he said.