Obama ends Iraq war amid low-key atmosphere


No public festivities in the US and no statements from the EU – so far. The announcement by the White House of the end of the Iraq war, which took the lives of more than 4,700 coalition troops – including many Europeans – came amid a muted atmosphere.

"Tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended," US President Barack Obama said in a speech from the White House on 31 August.

"Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country." 

As it ends its seven-and-a-half-year-old military operation in Iraq, the United States is shifting to a civilian-led mission to build a partnership that will strengthen Iraq's government, industry and people, the president said.

"Only Iraqis can build a democracy within their borders. What America can do, and will do, is provide support for the Iraqi people as both a friend and partner," Obama said.

According to US Liberal Politics, a partisan website, some $900 billion of US taxpayers' money has been spent on the Iraq war, which Obama's predecessor George W. Bush started with the goal of reigning in weapons of mass destruction. No weapons were ever found.

The war caused deep divisions among America's NATO allies, with US officials drawing a dividing line between the "old Europe" of France and Germany – which were opposed to the war – and the "new Europe" represented by East European countries, most of which approved Bush's policies unconditionally.

The USA's closest ally among Western EU countries, then-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, now recognises that Iraq became "a nightmare" that he failed to foresee.

Statistics show that during the war, which turned into a training ground for Al-Qaeda terrorists, 55,000 insurgents were killed. Almost 10,000 Iraqi police forces and soldiers were also killed.

The war deeply divided the country and brought autonomy to the northern Kurdish regions. The number of displaced people is estimated at over two million, and the number of Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan is believed to be 2.1-2.25 million.

141 journalists were killed, 94 of whom were murdered while 47 were killed in acts of war. Fourteen journalists were killed by US forces.

Asked by EURACTIV to react to the US announcement, a European Commission spokesperson said there were no new comments to make.

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