Tonight, in an Oval Office address, Pres. Obama declared "the American combat mission in Iraq has ended."
"Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country," Pres. Obama said during his 18-minute speech.
While the official U.S. combat mission is over, about 50,000 American troops will remain in Iraq until the end of 2011. They will train and advise Iraqis.
Pres. Obama also thanked U.S. troops who served in Iraq.
"At every turn, America's men and women in uniform have served with courage and resolve. As Commander-in-Chief, I am proud of their service. Like all Americans, I am awed by their sacrifice, and by the sacrifices of their families," he said.
Earlier today Defense Secretary Robert Gates got emotional as he discussed the toll the war took on American troops.
"Today, at the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom, 4,427 American service members have died in Iraq, 3,502 of them killed in action; 34,265 have been wounded or injured," Gates said at the American Legion convention in Milwaukee. "The courage of these men and women, their determination, their sacrifice – and that of their families – along with the service and sacrifice of so many others in uniform, have made this day, this transition, possible. We must never forget."
Gates also warned "the most recent elections have yet to result in a coalition government. Sectarian tensions remain a fact of life. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is beaten, but not gone."
On 360°, we'll talk about the future challenges in Iraq and the raw politics of Pres. Obama's message with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen, CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen, Pres. George W. Bush's former press secretary Ari Fleischer and CNN Political Analyst and Democratic Strategist Paul Begala.
Republicans called on Pres. Obama in his address to acknowledge he made a mistake in not supporting the 2007 surge in Iraq. They also wanted him to give credit to former Pres. Bush for the surge. Pres. Obama did neither.
"You might recall that the surge wasn't very popular when it was announced," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said today during a speech in his home state. "You might also recall that one of its biggest critics was the current president. So it makes it easier to talk about fulfilling a campaign promise to wind down our operations in Iraq when the previous administration signs the security agreement with Iraq to end our overall presence there," McConnell added suggesting former Pres. Bush deserves more credit for today's milestone.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, also blasted Pres. Obama. "One lawmaker rejected the idea that the surge would reduce violence in Iraq, saying - and again I'm quoting - 'in fact, I think it will do the reverse,'" Boehner said in reference to Obama during his speech to the American Legion convention.
Tonight we're also tracking Hurricane Earl, which is threatening Labor Day weekend plans along the east coast. Its top winds are 135 mph, which makes it a dangerous category four storm. Forecasters expect Hurricane Earl to brush the Carolinas late Thursday or early Friday as it makes its way north. We'll check in with CNN meteorologist Chad Myers for the latest bulletin from the National Hurricane Center.
We'll also take you to Pakistan where 17.6 million people have been impacted by the month-long catastrophic flooding. More than 1,600 others have been killed. 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta joins us from the flood zone with a look at the desperate need for aid in the flood ravaged country.
See you at 10 p.m. ET with these stories and much more.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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