updated 8/31/2010 9:36:30 AM ET 2010-08-31T13:36:30

Presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs says he cannot foresee a circumstance in which the United States would have to send combat troops back to Iraq.

Interviewed on the day of the troop withdrawal, Gibbs said President Barack Obama has been assured by military leaders that such a return scenario is not likely.

Gibbs declined to say whether Obama was wrong in opposing the troop surge that former President George W. Bush ordered. The spokesman said that while adding 30,000 troops improved security, a stronger factor was the move toward political accommodation among the Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions.

Gibbs appeared on NBC's "Today" show, CBS's "The Early Show," ABC's "Good Morning America," and on CNN, Fox News Channel, National Public Radio and MSNBC.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: White House: Future of Iraq is in Iraqis’ hands

  1. Closed captioning of: White House: Future of Iraq is in Iraqis’ hands

    >> white house press secretary . robert , good to see you. good morning.

    >> good morning, matt. how are you?

    >> i'm fine. thanks very much. you said at the white house monday the president will not use those infamous words " mission accomplished " when he talks to the american people tonight. how specifically will he describe the current mission in iraq with the troops remaining there? how will he describe it to the american people ?

    >> well, look, i think the president will talk about three different themes. that is ending our combat mission in iraq , strengthening our security internationally, and outlining some steps that we have to take to rebuild our nation here at home. what you'll hear the president discuss is that today marks the beginning of a transformation. our combat mission ends and our role in iraq is to assist and help the iraqis make the decisions they're going to make. they're in charge of their future. they will write their history from this point on. that is iraqi responsibility with the help of an ally in the united states of america .

    >> we have seen an increase in insurgent attacks in iraq over the last several weeks and some of those attacks are targeting the very forces we needed to grow before we could come to this, what you call a transition, the iraqi police . how comfortable or how worried is the president about the level of violence in iraq today?

    >> well, look, i think there's no doubt, matt, that those that are in iraq to foment violence will continue to do so that will not change today. what is important to understand is what general odierno told the president in the situation room a few weeks ago, and that is the level of violence is among the lowest that we've seen throughout our 7 1/2 years in iraq . the iraqi security forces for some time have been in the lead of providing security and the future of iraq will now be written by the iraqis .

    >> i know you don't like hypothetical questions, robert . nobody does. but if the level of violence increases to the point where it threatens the population of iraq on a daily basis and threatens the functioning of its government, would the president consider sending combat troops back into iraq ?

    >> well, look, we have some forces there to continue to assist in counterterrorism but understand, matt, that hypothetical, as i said, was actually gone over with the president in the situation room and general ray odierno , our commander there, did not foresee or believe that would be necessary in iraq , that iraqi security forces were capable of dealing with the violence and providing security for the iraqis .

    >> you also mentioned at the white house the president would call president bush in advance of his speech. has the call taken place?

    >> i believe the call will take place a little bit late they are morning, likely when the president is on air force one flying to thank our troops at ft. bliss right outside of el paso , texas. i think probably both commanders in chief share certainly one thing in common and that is thanking the men and women in uniform for the tremendous sacrifice they made over the past 7 1/2 years, the thousands that aren't coming back from iraq , the tens of thousands that have been wounded but those that keep us safe and secure.

    >> let me read you something. in january of 2007 when president bush announced the surge in iraq , then senator barack obama had this to say. quote, i am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in iraq are going to solve the sectarian violence there. in fact, i think it will do the reverse. so when president obama speaks to former president bush today, will he change his mind on that? will he give president bush credit for making that decision on the surge and admit that it contributed to the situation of more stability on the ground today?

    >> matt, what is certainly not up for question is that president obama , then candidate obama, said that adding those 20,000 troops into iraq would, indeed, improve the security situation, and it did. what was necessary for this moment to happen was a diplomatic surge, a change in the sunni awakening. rather than fighting with al qaeda they fought against al qaeda . i think a number of things, most importantly our men and women in uniform, brought us to this point.

    >> right.

    >> i think there's no doubt the surge improved the security situation. but as this president said many times, the war in iraq was not going to be fought or won primarily or just militarily, that we had to see some political accommodation and we had to see sectarian violence reduced because sunni, shia and kurds decided to live together and chart iraq 's future together, not fighting each other.

    >> robert gibbs at the white house . robert , thank you so much. i appreciate it.

    >> matt, thanks for having me.

    >> robert gibbs , thank you very


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