Pres. Obama recently addressed the nation to discuss "ending the combat mission" in Iraq. Getting to this critical point has been difficult. Many Americans and innocent Iraqis paid the ultimate price. But there's no doubt we've gotten here, because of our brave soldiers.
Without them, we would have failed long ago. Because of them, Iraq is on a more stable and secure path free of the brutal tyranny of Saddam Hussein, and to them, a grateful nation gives its deepest and most sincere gratitude.
Our soldiers endured unthinkable hardships - attacks from a committed enemy; extended tours of duty, which kept them away from their loved ones; and violence that threatened to further destabilize one of the most unstable parts of the world.
As a senator, it has been my solemn duty to ensure that our men and women in uniform in Iraq had every resource to stay safe and protected from harm. I am proud to have supported them and am humbled by their unwavering service.
Despite these tremendous obstacles, they neither lost faith nor their focus to make sure Iraq could stand on its own. Despite a dangerous terrorist threat, they succeeded because of their courage, skill and professionalism and because of Gen. Petraeus' counterinsurgency strategy, commonly called "the surge."
Regrettably, if the president, then serving in the Senate, and other Washington politicians had had their way, we would not be in the situation we're in today in Iraq. In 2006, opposition to the surge was fierce. Then Sen. Obama said he was, "not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse." Many in Congress, allied with radical left wing groups, tried to end the conflict by withholding funding for our troops. But the ones who would have suffered would've been our troops, because they would've been denied the resources to protect themselves and their fellow soldiers. That fringe position was stopped, and rightly so, because we should never sacrifice the safety of our men and women in uniform for political ends.
Thankfully, the president ultimately embraced the surge and that has allowed him to announce the winding down of combat operations in Iraq. The coordinated deadly attacks in Iraq last week show how vulnerable the situation is. The U.S. will have to continue working with this fledgling nation to ensure it doesn't become a failed state in the heart of the Middle East. We cannot allow that to happen. Iran and extremist terrorist elements remain intent on trying to destabilize Iraq for their own personal gain.
That's why thousands of our troops will stay to further train and assist the security forces. Unfortunately, our government has failed to diplomatically end the electoral impasse that has gripped Iraq since January - leading to further instability. The administration needs to work more vigorously to resolve this impasse. Iraq is not perfect; no one should expect that tomorrow it will be a fully functional and peaceful democracy. More work needs to be done by the Iraqis to secure their own future. But it has been the tremendous sacrifice of our soldiers and the vision of the surge once opposed by so many that has given this nation this historic opportunity.