US troops will leave Iraq this month with “honor and their heads held high,” US President Barack Obama said Monday as he vowed that the Iraqi people had an enduring partner in the United States.
But after talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Obama also warned that other nations “must not interfere in Iraq” amid fears the US withdrawal will leave a vacuum which Iraq’s neighbors such as Iran could seek to exploit. “After nearly nine years, our war in Iraq ends this month,” Obama told journalists after meeting with Maliki at the White House.
“In coming days, the last American soldiers will cross the border out of Iraq with honor, and with their heads held high,” the president said. “We are here to mark the end of this war to honor the sacrifices of all those who made this day possible and to turn the page,” Obama said, adding it was time to “begin a new chapter in the history between our countries. A normal relationship between sovereign nations. An equal partnership based on mutual interests and mutual respect.”
Obama also told Maliki, who was accompanied by senior Iraqi leaders, that the United States, which invaded Iraq in 2003, would stand by the country in the coming years. “As we end this war, and as Iraq faces its future, the Iraqi people must know that you will not stand alone. You have a strong and enduring partner in the United States of America,” the US leader said.