Obama: Iraq war to end in 2011

President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden jokes about Obama memes: 'Barack did the first friendship bracelet, not me' Slain Saudi columnist upends 'Davos in the Desert' Sanders, Harris set to criss-cross Iowa MORE said Monday that U.S. troops will stick to the schedule for withdrawing completely from Iraq by the end of 2011, and "for America, the Iraq war will end."

Addressing the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in Phoenix, Obama warned that those "who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again" and said that by ending the war in Iraq, the U.S. can shift focus to Afghanistan.

"The insurgency in Afghanistan didn’t just happen overnight," Obama said. "And we won’t defeat it overnight. This will not be quick. This will not be easy."

The president also used his time in Phoenix to push for healthcare reform, saying that "one thing that reform won't change is veterans' healthcare."

"No one is going to take away your benefits," Obama said. "That is the plain and simple truth. We're expanding access to your healthcare, not reducing it."

At times, the president returned to themes from a campaign where he ran in part against the military legacy of former President George W. Bush, with Obama referencing Iraq and promising troops he will only send them "into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary."  

"When I do, it will be based on good intelligence and guided by a sound strategy," Obama said.

On Afghanistan, the president sounded a different tone, invoking the memory of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"We must never forget. This is not a war of choice," Obama said. "This is a war of necessity."

Obama also spoke at length about the need to eliminate waste in defense spending, defending his veto threat over the defeated F-22 program.

The president was set to return to Washington on Monday afternoon.