In his ad­dress this evening, no vic­to­ries will be cel­e­brated

The Kansas City Star (Sunday) - - LOCAL -

in attacks last week. In per­spec­tive, the lev­els of vi­o­lence in Iraq have dropped con­sid­er­ably, but se­cu­rity and democ­racy are highly un­fin­ished projects.

“This is not ‘ ev­ery­thing is over,’ ” White House press sec­re­tary Robert Gibbs said. “We still have peo­ple there. And we’ll still have vi­o­lence there.”

On Mideast peace, the re­sump­tion of talks is it­self a vic­tory, but Clin­ton set a sober tone even in an­nounc­ing them.

“There have been dif­fi­cul­ties in the past. There will be dif­fi­cul­ties ahead,” she said. “We will hit more ob­sta­cles.”

And nearly nine years into the war in Afghanistan, sup­port in Congress is show­ing signs of soft­en­ing as more and more Amer­i­cans say they fear the U.S. is be­com­ing bogged down in a con­flict it can­not win.

The fo­cus on Iraq and the Mideast talks is Obama’s most con­cen­trated pub­lic em­pha­sis on for­eign pol­icy and na­tional se­cu­rity in weeks. That will con­tinue through­out Septem­ber as the pres­i­dent marks the ninth an­niver­sary of the Sept.11 ter­ror­ist attacks and heads later in the month for talks with world lead­ers at the U.N. Gen­eral Assem­bly.

Has­ten­ing the end of a war he never sup­ported, Obama’s mes­sage about Iraq is ex­pected to echo a line he said about Afghanistan in his ma­jor ad­dress about that war last De­cem­ber.

He will say Iraqis must take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their nation be­cause the coun­try he wants to build most is the United States, a nod to the eco­nomic anx­i­ety that has eroded morale at home.

There will be no ref­er­ence to mis­sion ac­com­plished.

The U.S. role in the war was al­ready on a path to end when Obama took of­fice. All U.S. troops are set to leave Iraq by the end of 2011un­der an ac­cord the United States reached dur­ing Ge­orge W. Bush’s pres­i­dency.

Un­til then, the mis­sion of U.S. forces will be mainly to help and train Iraqi forces and take part in tar­geted coun­tert­er­ror­ism mis­sions. Obama is al­ready fram­ing the im­por­tance of the end of the com­bat mis­sion as a prom­ise kept.

“The bot­tom line is this: The war is end­ing. Like any sover- eign, in­de­pen­dent nation, Iraq is free to chart its own course,” the pres­i­dent said over the week­end. “And by the end of next year, all of our troops will be home.”

Obama will be speak­ing tonight on his self-im­posed dead­line for end­ing the com­bat op­er­a­tion in Iraq and shrink­ing the U.S. foot­print there to no more than 50,000 troops.

It is al­ready be­low that num­ber. When he took of­fice, there were more than 140,000 troops in Iraq.

Obama’s Oval Of­fice ad­dress will come more than seven years af­ter ma­jor com­bat op­er­a­tions were de­clared over the first time, by Bush.

The news of Obama’s speech — the dead­lines met, the time of tran­si­tion — has been play­ing out for weeks. So his mis­sion is to honor the sac­ri­fice of those who have served and to put Iraq in the con­text of an on­go­ing fight against ter­ror­ists, which the United States is wag­ing in Afghanistan and other places around the world where al-Qaida has rooted.

Be­fore the night­time ad­dress, the pres­i­dent will travel to Fort Bliss, Texas, to thank troops in per­son. The sprawl­ing Army base in El Paso has con­trib­uted heavy armor and tours of sol­diers through­out the war.

In the pub­lic eye, much of Obama’s time has been spent work­ing on the slug­gish econ­omy, the dev­as­tat­ing oil spill in the Gulf of Mex­ico and the Democrats’ re-elec­tion ef­forts this year.

Al­though the Iraq war gets less at­ten­tion now, it was at the heart of the U.S. po­lit­i­cal de­bate when Obama launched his bid for the White House in 2007. His op­po­si­tion to the war and his pledge to end it re­spon­si­bly helped drive his elec­tion.

PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS | THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Oval Of­fice speech on Iraq tonight by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama comes more than seven years af­ter Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush de­clared ma­jor com­bat op­er­a­tions there to be over. The speech be­gins at 7 p.m.

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