After holding one-on-one and expanded meetings in DC this afternoon, President Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri-al Maliki held a joint press conference to discuss the future of Iraq. "There is going to be a difference in strategy," Obama said. "There are going to be strategic and tactical discussions taking place."
The emphasis on the change in strategy comes after the June 30 withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraqi cities and towns. Obama said the withdrawal timeline is on schedule.
Addressing concerns about the preparedness of the Iraqi government and military to handle threats, Obama said "we're very pleased" to "have seen both improved capacity and greater confidence on the part of the Iraqi security forces." Prime Minister Maliki said "those who thought that the Iraqi forces, if the American forces leave, will be incapable of imposing peace and security, these people proved to be wrong."
Maliki, speaking through a translator, also commended the organization and cooperation between the U.S. and Iraqi governments. He called his meeting with Obama both "productive and constructive," and said "it reflected the deep conviction on the part of both sides to establish a strategic friendship and in order to continue the successes that we have achieved, and perhaps we referred to the security successes that led to the stability in Iraq."
Obama also said that "violence [in Iraq] continues to be down," echoing remarks by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, who made a similar statement in a National Press Club appearance on July 8.
There was a moment where Obama's translation services seemed to falter - when a reporter asked a question in Arabic and he initially responded, "My translation is not coming through here, guys, and my Arabic is a little shaky," drawing laughs from the crowd.
The question was about the U.S. helping Iraq out of bankruptcy, and post-translation, Obama answered that "it would be a mistake for Iraq to continue to be burdened by the sins of a deposed dictator." His approach to solving the issue will be to ask for the cooperation of United Nations members.