With his Oval Office speech next week, President Barack Obama
will signal a shift in America's focus from the Iraq War to
the war in Afghanistan, his spokesman said today.
Administration officials have portrayed the speech as an
important pivot point from a war that candidate Obama said
should never have been fought to a conflict that President
Obama sees as vital to the nation's security.
Previewing the speech as Obama vacationed on Martha's
Vineyard, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said Obama also
wants to thank US troops who've fought bravely in Iraq. With
the formal US combat mission at an end, troop strength in
Iraq this week dropped below 50,000 for the first time since
the 2003 US-led invasion. Many of those troops will remain in
a backup and training role.
Before his White House speech, Obama will fly to Fort Bliss
in Texas to deliver his thanks in person to troops returned
Burton said the Oval Office address "commemorates an
important milepost in American history." He said Obama will
use the occasion to speak "directly with the American people
about what our mission is in Afghanistan (and) the fact that
more of our efforts and focus are now on fighting al-Qaida in
While hailing the drawdown in Iraq, Burton denounced
militants behind recent attacks on Iraqi security forces
there. This week, a series of bombings and shootings left at
least 56 dead.
"The reason for these attacks is people who don't want Iraq
to flourish as a democracy," the spokesman said. "There are
people who are trying to use fear and terror as a tactic to
slow down what is not stoppable in that country."
Burton said Obama is confident the transition to Iraqi
control "has been a successful one" and Iraqis are now
capable of maintaining their own security.