News: Iraqi Government honors commitment of American service members
Story by Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo
By Master Sgt. Kerry Jackson
321st Air Expeditionary Wing
BAGHDAD, Iraq - As the sunsets on Operation New Dawn, the Government of Iraq honored the commitment and many sacrifices of American airmen, soldiers, sailors and Marines during a ceremony attended by Vice President Joe Biden, Dec. 1.
The ceremony, dubbed The Day of Commitment, spoke to the enduring relationship of the United States and Iraq beyond the 2008 Bilateral Security Agreement that's scheduled to expire Dec. 31 and that specified withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq by year’s end. It's a relationship Biden said doesn't have an expiration date and is one Iraqis are firmly committed to.
“We would like to extend our deep appreciations and send our regards to the great American people,” said President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani. "[We] promise them that a sovereign Iraq will always be loyal to what we signed, and will be a permanent friend to the United States of America.”
U.S. and Iraq service members --warriors who became partners and friends and now brothers-in-arms--have much to be proud of. Since 2007, violence in Iraq has decreased 90% largely in part because of the combined efforts of U.S. and Iraqi service members. In addition to helping the Iraqis develop their external defense and counter-terrorism operations, U.S. service members have played an instrumental role in helping Iraq's rebuilding efforts through various civil capacity efforts that include education, health care, communications, transportation, rule of law, construction and infrastructure among others where great progress has been made.
"I know you gentlemen would acknowledge that America sent you the very best our country has to offer-- our young men and women, but also their leaders," Biden said.
On behalf of President Barack Obama and the American people, Biden thanked American and Iraqi warriors, who shoulder-to-shoulder filled the rotunda of the Al Faw Palace, for their sacrifices and for ending a war that started over 8 years ago on March 19, 2003.
"Thank you, thank you, for your heroic work that each one of you have done to bring about this moment, because of you ... we are now able to end this war," Biden said. "All of you have laid the foundation for a long long-term strategic partnership between our two nations and also for an Iraq, that, against all odds, can serve as a source of stability, not only for it's people, but here in the region and for years to come -- almost no one thought that was possible a few years ago."
The Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri Al-Malawk, presented Biden with the Medal of Commitment during the ceremony that symbolizes Iraq’s permanent commitment to the United States.
"This medal speaks to our nation's enduring commitment to one another even as the nature of our mutual relationship evolves," Biden said. "It also reflects our mutual desire to embrace a new stage of our relationship, one that will be guided by the Strategic Framework Agreement, which calls for broad cooperation across a wide range of areas and policies including democratic institutions and diplomatic relations, trade and finance, energy, law enforcement and culture and education."
At the beginning of the Obama administration, there were 140,000 American troops in Iraq and today less than 12,000 U.S. service members remain. All are on schedule to be out of Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011 as part of the agreement between the two sovereign nations, and the Obama administration’s promise to the American people to end the war in Iraq.
"A promise made, is a promise kept," said Biden.