Obama announces total Iraq troop withdrawal

Friday, October 21, 2011 | 1:32 p.m. CDT; updated 4:28 p.m. CDT, Friday, October 21, 2011

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Friday declared an end to the Iraq war, one of the longest and most divisive conflicts in U.S. history and announced that all American troops would be withdrawn from the country by year's end.

Obama's statement put an end to months of wrangling over whether the U.S. would maintain a force in Iraq beyond 2011. He never mentioned the tense and ultimately fruitless negotiations with Iraq about whether to keep several thousand U.S. forces in Iraq as a training force and a hedge against meddling from Iran or other outside forces.

Instead, Obama spoke of a promise kept, a new day for a self-reliant Iraq and a focus on building up the economy at home.

"I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year," Obama said. "After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over."

Obama spoke after a private video conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and he offered assurances that the two leaders agreed on the decision.

The U.S. military presence in Iraq stands at justless than 40,000. All U.S. troops are to exit the country in accordance with a deal struck between the countries in 2008 when George W. Bush was president.

Obama, an opponent of the war from the start, took office and accelerated the end of the conflict. In August 2010, he declared the U.S. combat mission concluded.

"Over the next two months our troops in Iraq, tens of thousands of them, will pack up their gear and board convoys for the journey home," Obama said. "The last American soldier will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high, proud of their success and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops."

More than 4,400 American military members have been killed since the U.S. and its allies invaded Iraq in March 2003.

Two U.S. officials had told The Associated Press last week that the U.S. would not keep troops in Iraq past the year-end withdrawal deadline, except for some soldiers attached to the U.S. Embassy.

In recent months, Washington had been discussing with Iraqi leaders the possibility of several thousand American troops remaining to continue training Iraqi security forces.

Throughout the discussions, Iraqi leaders refused to give U.S. troops immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts, and the Americans refused to stay without that guarantee.

Moreover, Iraq's leadership has been split on whether it wanted American forces to stay.

When the 2008 agreement requiring all U.S. forces to leave Iraq was passed, many U.S. officials assumed it would inevitably be renegotiated so that Americans could stay longer.

The U.S. said repeatedly this year it would entertain an offer from the Iraqis to have a small force stay behind, and the Iraqis said they would like American military help. But as the year wore on and the number of American troops that Washington was suggesting could stay behind dropped, it became increasingly clear that a U.S. troop presence was not a sure thing.

The issue of legal protection for the Americans was the deal-breaker.

Pulling troops out by the end of this year allows both al-Maliki and Obama to claim victory.

Obama kept a campaign promise to end the war, and al-Maliki will have ended the American presence and restored Iraqi sovereignty.

The president used the war statement to once again turn attention back to the economy, the domestic concern that is expected to determine whether he wins re-election next year.

"After a decade of war the nation that we need to build and the nation that we will build is our own, an America that sees its economic strength restored just as we've restored our leadership around the globe."

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Abigail Williams October 21, 2011 | 2:27 p.m.

That an end of TWO wars in TWO days. Bush couldn't do that in TWO terms.

(Report Comment)
Abigail Williams October 21, 2011 | 2:28 p.m.

We should occupy the UNITED STATES!!!

(Report Comment)
Corey Parks October 21, 2011 | 7:14 p.m.

Your comment is childish Abigail. Maybe leave the military comments to those that know.

As for Obama his announcement is once again a day late and a dollar short. 50% of the troops have already been moved out and 75% of the bases have been cleared thanks to the Reserve Units out of Missouri and KS and others that have been working their butts off since July.

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock October 22, 2011 | 7:20 a.m.

I am sure if there was some searching done online I think the troop reduction order was given prior to Obama becoming president. The only reason we are leaving is because a deal couldn't be struck to keep the bases.

(Report Comment)
frank christian October 22, 2011 | 9:56 a.m.

A. Sharrock - Today's Trib states, under "Obama heralds end of Iraq War" - "In 2008 President George W. Bush approved a deal calling for all U.S. forces to withdraw by Dec. 31, 2011"

BO picked the same date, quite a coincidence!

Trib states, we are leaving because, "Iraqi leaders refused to give U.S. troops immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts." "Obama never mentioned that issue yesterday"

(Report Comment)
frank christian October 22, 2011 | 10:04 a.m.

Allen, the Missourian, in it's end of war article also states, "All U.S. troops are to exit the country in accordance with a deal struck between the countries in 2008 when George W. Bush was president."

(Report Comment)

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