About the Author: Michael Corbin serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.
August 31 marks a critical milestone in Iraq, as the U.S. combat mission comes to an end, in accordance with the plan President Obama laid out at Camp Lejeune in February. In my position as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq, I visited Fort Bragg to discuss the efforts to transition the many programs conducted by the Department of Defense that will now be the responsibility of the Department of State. When I visited Fort Bragg, I had time to reflect on the sacrifices made by all the men and women who have served or continue to serve in the Armed Forces, and I had the honor of meeting some of them personally.
The end of combat operations in Iraq and the transition to civilian-led efforts fulfills President Obama's commitment to responsibly end the war. We could not have reached this important milestone without the determination of the men and women in our armed forces. This doesn't mean that the U.S. military's job is finished in Iraq. Beginning in September, our plan is for the remaining 50,000 U.S. troops on the ground to focus on training, equipping and advising the Iraqi Security Forces; work with the Iraqis on joint counterterrorism missions; and protect U.S. civilian and military activities.
The 18th Airborne Corps, based out of Fort Bragg, will be leading the military in these transition operations. The partnership between our civilian leaders and our military counterparts on the ground in Iraq and at home in the United States has never been stronger, and we are working closely together to ensure a successful transition to a civilian lead. We have one mission -- to help Iraq become sovereign, stable, self-reliant, and a force for stability in the region. The ongoing military role is to support Iraqi forces in carrying out their mission. The State Department's role will be to ensure the continuity of our objectives and our partnership with Iraq, as well as the safety and security of our personnel as we transition.
U.S. assistance is shifting from helping Iraq rebuild and reconstruct its infrastructure and institutions, to providing technical advice to strengthen capacity in key fields such as health, agriculture, and economic diversification. We are transferring skills and expertise to Iraq's government, industry, and people. Under the terms of the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement, we are building a strong and dynamic partnership with the people of Iraq that features cooperation in a range of sectors.
We know that the next few years in Iraq will not be easy. The country is facing significant challenges and there are still too many in Iraq who would resort to violence instead of peaceful participation in the country's political system. The long-term success of the Iraqi nation will depend upon decisions made by Iraq's leaders and the fortitude of the Iraqi people. Voter turnout in the March 7 election was strong throughout the country. This illustrated the Iraqi people's resolve to use the political process to elect their leadership, and we are now calling on the Iraqi politicians to form an inclusive government which will best serve the Iraqi people.
The current situation in Iraq is not perfect, but we have seen marked improvements as a direct result of the sacrifices made by the men and women of the Armed services and the efforts of thousands of civilian personnel working for the U.S. government. As we move forward in September and the months to come, we will focus on our partnership with the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government as they continue to build a prosperous and democratic state.
The Department of State, the Government of Iraq, and the Iraqi people will never forget and will continue to honor all those who have sacrificed so much to ensure a stable and prosperous future.
Related Entry: U.S. Transition in Iraq