Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in Iraq Wednesday morning as American troops formally bring combat operations in the country to a close. His visit comes just a day after President Obama’s primetime address to the nation.
“It’s time to turn the page,” the President said.
U.S. combat operations may have come to an end, but the war in Iraq isn't over.
“I can’t tell my soldiers you are not a combat-armed soldier anymore,” said Sgt. 1st Class John Sylvester, 3rd Squadron, 7th U.S. Cavalry. “That’s offensive, you know what I’m saying? We are still out here doing what we did before.”
Wednesday, roughly 50,000 American forces began Operation New Dawn. Their mission: advising and supporting Iraqi security forces over the next year.
“They’ve gotta be successful really early on,” said CBS News Military Analyst, Maj. Mike Lyons (Ret.). “The next 90 days will tell whether or not the Iraqi security forces have been successful and been trained well.”
Wednesday morning, Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Iraq, joining Vice President Biden who's been in the country all week pushing political leaders to end a stalemate and form a new government.
President Obama also pushed Iraqi leaders to come to an agreement during his primetime address from the Oval Office Tuesday night.
“I encourage Iraq’s leaders to move forward with a sense of urgency to form an inclusive government that is just, representative and accountable to the Iraqi people,” the President said.
Even when an Iraqi government finally takes shape, President Obama promised the U.S. wouldn't just walk away.
“Our combat mission is ending, but our commitment to Iraq’s future is not.”
That commitment has come with a heavy price – nearly a trillion dollars spent and more than 44-hundred lives lost.