Skip to main content

Al-Maliki marks U.S. end to Iraq combat mission in national address

From Jomana Karadsheh, CNN
Click to play
U.S. combat role comes to an end
  • Al-Maliki proclaims Iraq as "sovereign and independent"
  • The U.S. combat mission formally ends at 5 p.m. ET
  • The prime minister praises the achievements of the country's security forces
  • He describes the day as an opportunity to "strengthen national unity"

Watch President Obama's speech live on CNN tonight at 8 ET, online, on TV and on the CNN App for the iPhone.

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki proclaimed Iraq as "sovereign and independent" during a national address Tuesday to mark the official end of the U.S. combat mission in his country.

Al-Maliki praised the strides made by Iraqi security forces in fighting terrorism, attributing their efforts to making the U.S. drawdown possible. The combat mission formally ends at 5 p.m. ET.

"If these security achievements were not real, we would not have been able to move to executing the bigger and more important step, which is the withdrawal of American forces that is happening today," he said. "This withdrawal would not have happened without the sacrifices of all the Iraqi people and the heroics of the army, police and security forces and the tribesmen who supported them.

"We do not view the withdrawal as an accomplishment of one person, or one party or one sect or one ethnicity; it is an achievement for all Iraqis. ... And it represents a golden opportunity to strengthen national unity and a starting point to build Iraq after decades of destruction and suffering," he said.

The prime minister described the combat mission's end as a "new national day" for the Iraqi people, "where you regain your country's sovereignty and draw its future with your own hands."

Al-Maliki also sought to assure Iraqis that the country's security forces are ready to secure Iraq, vowing that the country will not slip back into the sectarian war that has gripped it for years.

He addressed doubts about the U.S. withdrawal and capabilities of security forces, calling those who make such statements "enemies of Iraq."

Also Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver an Oval Office address on the seven-year Iraqi conflict. Though the official combat mission is ending, roughly 50,000 U.S. troops will remain in the country until the end of 2011. Their mission will be to train, assist and advise the Iraqis.

Part of complete coverage on
iReport: Share your story
If you or a loved one have previously served or are currently serving in Iraq, please share your story. Tell us how the war has affected your life
Past: Timeline
The start of the war, Saddam Hussein's capture, Falluja and more -- check out key events of the Iraq war
Present: Where are they now?
Jessica Lynch, Donald Rumsfeld, Ayad Allawi. Look back at past newsmakers and where they are today
Future: What's next
Analysts envision a persistent American presence in an Iraq that remains unstable
Photos: Inside Iraq
See images of the country today, more than seven years after the start of the war
Home and Away
See the stories behind the coalition casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan