US President Barack Obama has used his Memorial Day speech to emphasize his moves to pull troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq. The president is facing criticism at home on his strategy against the "Islamic State" group.
In his speech Monday at an annual remembrance ceremony at the Arlington National Cemetery, Obama paid tribute to American military personnel who served in conflicts including World War Two and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"For many of us, this Memorial Day is especially meaningful. It is the first since our war in Afghanistan came to an end," Obama said, noting "Today is the first Memorial Day in 14 years that the United States is not engaged in a major ground war."
US forces are currently involved in air campaigns against the self-proclaimed 'Islamic State' ('IS') extremist group in Iraq and Syria, as well as training missions including in Iraq, Syria and Ukraine. Drone campaigns have also been underway in countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen in recent months.
Obama's election promises included winding down US participation in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. As a Democratic presidential candidate in 2008 he sharply criticized the Iraq war launched by his Republican predecessor as president, George W. Bush. He is now facing calls from some quarters for the US to again send in troops to Iraq, this time to combat IS, and criticism of his current strategy in the face of IS territory gains in Palmyra and Ramadi - as well as accusations from some Republicans that in his haste to get out of Iraq, Obama left a void which IS then filled.
se/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)