Vice President Biden welcomed home soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team at Fort Drum, calling them “the best America has.”
The unit has been deployed to eastern Baghdad since October. It served four deployments to Iraq and three deployments to Afghanistan.
Biden said he and his wife Jill know what these military families are experiencing. “The day that our son Beau came back from a yearlong tour in Baghdad was one of the proudest of our lives,” he said.
Biden told the unit and their families that he has been looking forward to this day for a long time – because President Obama’s pledge to end the U.S. combat mission in Iraq will be fulfilled in one month.
“By August 31, from more than 145,000 troops on the ground when this Administration took office, 50,000 will remain,” Biden said. “Our remaining troops will focus on advising and assisting Iraqi forces, on counter-terrorism in partnership with their Iraqi colleagues, and on protecting our civilian and military personnel and facilities.”
The vice president said that by the end of 2011, all of America’s forces will be out of Iraq and the Iraqi government and people will be in control of the nation’s security.
Biden said for the U.S. military, the mission in Iraq “as complex and challenging as any it has ever attempted” but lauded their work there.
“You have enabled the Iraqi people to replace a tyrant with a new constitution, a new parliament, and two national elections conducted freely, fairly, and, by-and-large, safely,” he said. “And perhaps most important, you have prepared Iraq’s security forces to safeguard their future as a sovereign, stable and self-reliant country. Now it is up to them.”
Biden said that anyone who spent time in Iraq in 2006 or 2007 would “hardly recognize it” today. He said that although Al Qaeda and other extremists continue to disrupt Iraq’s progress, they have been “unsuccessful.”
“Today, in an Iraq once mired in sectarian conflict, politics has broken out,” the vice president said. “Party leaders are engaged in the difficult but essential process of forming a government, not by violence and intimidation, but through negotiation.”
He said that now is the time for Iraq’s political leaders to fulfill their responsibilities and “get on with the business of governing.”