WASHINGTON (AFP) Ã¢â‚¬â€œ US President Barack Obama met Monday with wounded US soldiers and prepared to call his predecessor George W. Bush a day ahead of an address marking the official end of the US combat mission in Iraq.
On Monday afternoon, Obama’s convoy headed to the Walter Reed military hospital, in the north of US capital Washington, to meet with American troops injured in combat.
Reporters were not permitted to follow the president inside, where he stayed for two hours, but the White House said later that Obama met with 24 soldiers who had deployed to Afghanistan and five who went to Iraq.
Obama also gave out 11 Purple Heart medals, which are awarded to veterans who are wounded or killed in battle. They are among the military’s most prestigious medals of honor.
The US president is scheduled to meet US soldiers recently returned from Iraq on Tuesday at a Texas military base before returning to Washington to give the speech to the nation from the Oval Office.
Though Bush returned to Texas to work on his memoirs after leaving office, the White House said Obama was not likely to see his predecessor while in the state.
“I don’t think we’ve got plans to see him, but my sense is that it will be one of the calls that he makes tomorrow,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.
Obama similarly consulted Bush, the architect of the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, before delivering the February 2009 speech in which he laid out the timeline with the withdrawal of US troops from the country.
As of Tuesday, there will be fewer than 50,000 US soldiers in the country, tasked primarily with training their Iraqi counterparts, counterterrorism efforts and protecting and assisting with reconstruction work.
According to the timeline Obama set in 2009, and a security agreement with Iraq that he inherited from the Bush administration, the departure of all US troops from the country should be complete by December 2011.
Obama opposed the March 2003 invasion of Iraq from the beginning, and Gibbs said Monday that history appeared to bear out the wisdom of his opposition.
“If you look back to the debate in 2002 and in early 2003, I think there’s no doubt that there were a series of miscalculations that were made as we got into Iraq,” he said.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that both the way we went in and with the type of resources that we went in with, we made some pretty huge strategic and tactical errors,” Gibbs added.