Obama sees ‘tough days ahead’ in Iraq

As U.S. troops leave Iraqi cities, President Obama on Tuesday hailed the milestone as a “day of celebration” for Iraqis even as he warned of continued violence.

“Make no mistake, there will be difficult days ahead,” Obama said during an event in the East Room of the White House. “We know that violence in Iraq will continue.”

Obama’s administration stopped far short of declaring victory.

“We'll keep the banner printers from doing anything crazy,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs joked in a dig at President George W. Bush's “Mission Accomplished” moment aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.

A car bombing on Tuesday killed 24 amid Iraqi celebrations over the withdrawal of U.S. troops from urban centers.

The White House said it expected some instances of violence as the transfer took place, but it dismissed them as “isolated incidents.”

“The future belongs to those who build it, not those who destroy it,” Obama said.

Obama pledged that the U.S. will continue to be a partner with Iraq as it works to provide its own security.

Gibbs said the withdrawal from Iraqi cities is “an important step forward” for Iraqis to govern their own nation, adding it will help the U.S. devote more resources to Afghanistan.

“It is an important step forward in our ability to ultimately draw down our combat troops and leave Iraq in a good situation,” he said. “And all of that has let us invest more of our resources in Afghanistan.”

The White House said Vice President Biden will take on the role of overseer on Iraq, as the situation involves "close monitoring.” The U.S. goal is to withdraw all troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.

The president praised the “courage, capability and commitment of every single American who has served in Iraq.”