Boehner to Obama: Iraq and Afghanistan need more than 'campaign promises'

House Minority Leader John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerTrump appears alongside Ocasio-Cortez on Time 100 list Resurrecting deliberative bodies Trump's decision on health care law puts spotlight on Mulvaney MORE (R-Ohio) urged President Obama to do more to show his commitment to success in Afghanistan and Iraq besides using campaign promises of meeting withdrawal deadlines. 

The top-ranking House Republican spoke to a veterans group in Wisconsin on Tuesday, where he criticized the administration's national security credentials ahead of Obama's Oval Office address Tuesday night.

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"I support our counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, but the president must do more to emphasize his commitment to ensuring its success rather than focusing on arbitrary deadlines for withdrawal. And he must also place a greater emphasis on ensuring successful implementation of both the military and civilian components of his strategy.

"Using campaign promises as a yardstick to measure success in Iraq and Afghanistan runs the risk of triggering artificial victory laps and premature withdrawal dates unconnected to conditions on the ground," BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerTrump appears alongside Ocasio-Cortez on Time 100 list Resurrecting deliberative bodies Trump's decision on health care law puts spotlight on Mulvaney MORE said.

He also warned of negative consequences if Obama insists on sticking to a hard withdrawal date of July 2011 in Afghanistan.

The speech was Boehner's second major policy address in recent weeks. In a speech last week he called for Obama's top economic advisers to resign.

Tuesday marked the end of combat operations in Iraq, and Boehner said the success there came over the objections of key Democratic voices, who were opposed to the 2007 surge strategy championed by then-President George W. Bush.

"Some leaders who opposed, criticized, and fought tooth-and-nail to stop the surge strategy now proudly claim credit for the results," Boehner told the participants at the 92nd annual American Legion convention in Milwaukee.

The Ohio lawmaker choked up at points during the nearly 30-minute address, especially when he recounted the words of his former personal assistant's husband, who died in the battle of Fallujah in 2006. 

"He left behind a letter to his family to be read in case of his death. In the letter, Sergeant [Daniel] Clay wrote: ‘What we have done in Iraq is worth any sacrifice. Why? Because it was our duty. That sounds simple. But all of us have a duty. Duty is defined as a God-given task. Without duty, life is worthless.’ This Marine understood his duty to God and country. We as elected leaders must understand ours as well," the highest-ranking House Republican managed to say as he held back a sob.

Boehner also said that "today we mark not the defeat those voices anticipated — but progress. And I want to thank President Obama for setting aside his past political rhetoric and recognizing the importance of the surge and the diplomatic agreement signed by President Bush and [Iraqi] Prime Minister [Nouri al-] Maliki," which was met by applause from the vets in the crowd.

Obama's Oval Office speech Tuesday night is expected to address America's presence in the region.

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

—This article was originally posted at 1:31 p.m. and updated at 5:12 p.m.