US Vice-President Joe Biden Saturday said the United States was committed to withdrawing its soldiers from Iraq by the end of 2011.
Speaking from Baghdad on US Independence Day, less than a week after US soldiers withdrew from Iraqi cities, Biden said the White House would honour pledges to complete the military’s withdrawal from Iraq in two years’ time.
“Last week we made good on a commitment to withdraw American combat troops from Iraqi cities,” Biden said. “Next summer our combat troops will leave Iraq itself, and we will be on track to remove all US forces from Iraq at the end of 2011.”
He was speaking at a ceremony to naturalise 237 soldiers from 59 countries, including Iraq, as US citizens in recognition of their service in the military.
The ceremony took place in Aw Faw palace, which was built for Saddam Hussein.
“As corny as it sounds,” Biden said, “Damn, I’m proud to be an American.”
“You are the source of our freedom,” the vice president told the soldiers. “You and all who came before you. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Biden thanked them for their sacrifices. “You’ve lost comrades,” he said, noting that 4,322 US soldiers had been killed in Iraq, and more than 30,000 had been wounded.
General Ray Odierno, the US military’s commander in Iraq, remembered the phrase inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor.”
“To be honest,” he said. “I’m not so sure that its legendary inscription is applicable to this group here today, because when I look at the men and women sitting out in front of me here, I don’t see them in terms of tired, poor.”