After nearly nine years, the war in Iraq is over and the last American soldiers have left the country. This begins a new chapter in the history between the United States and Iraq, said President Barack Obama, "a normal relationship between sovereign nations, an equal partnership based on mutual interests and mutual respect."
While challenges remain, Iraq has already achieved a great deal. Millions have cast their ballots to vote in free elections. Iraqis are working to build institutions that are efficient and independent and transparent.
Iraq continues to invest in its infrastructure and development. And in the coming years, it's estimated that Iraq's economy will grow even faster than China's or India's. With oil production rising, Iraq is on track to once again be one of the region’s leading oil producers.
With respect to security, Iraqi forces have been in the lead for the better part of three years, patrolling the streets, dismantling militias, and conducting counterterrorism operations. Today, despite continued attacks by those who seek to derail Iraq's progress, violence remains at record lows.
Across the region, Iraq is forging new ties of trade and commerce with its neighbors, and Iraq is assuming its rightful place among the community of nations. For the first time in two decades, Iraq is scheduled to host the next Arab League Summit. "People throughout the region," said President Obama, "will see a new Iraq that is determining its own destiny – a country in which people from different religious sects and ethnicities can resolve their differences peacefully through the democratic process."
President Obama affirmed that the United States will remain Iraq's friend and partner. The U.S. will continue to help strengthen Iraq's democratic institutions including free elections, a vibrant press, a strong civil society, professional police and law enforcement, and an independent judiciary.
The United States will help Iraq train and equip its forces through training programs to keep the peace at home. And with regard to regional security, Iraq has pledged not interfere in other nations, and other nations, including Iran, must not interfere in Iraq. "Iraq's sovereignty," said President Obama, "must be respected."
Although U.S. troops have left Iraq, America's presence in the Middle East endures, said President Obama, and the United States will never waver in defense of its allies, its partners, or it interests.