published Friday, October 21st, 2011

Obama announces total Iraq troop withdrawal

  • photo
    President Barack Obama speaks in the briefing room of the White House in Washington today, where he declared an end to the Iraq war, one of the longest and most divisive conflicts in U.S. history, announcing that all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from the country by year's end. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

BEN FELLER,AP White House Correspondent

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Iraq war, one of the longest and most divisive conflicts in U.S. history, announcing that all American troops would be withdrawn from the country by year's end.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

"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.

The Associated Press first reported last week that the United States 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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AlmostAmanda said...

Took him long enough.

October 21, 2011 at 1:26 p.m.
chaselock said...

The U.S. military presence in Iraq stands at just under 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.

Just like obama to take credit for something he didnt even do.

October 21, 2011 at 2:46 p.m.
Salsa said...

I guess he'll have more troops to send to his new war in Africa now.

October 21, 2011 at 3:01 p.m.
rolando said...

He has his own agenda for bringing the troops home -- to put down civic unrest/violence/rebellion when he announces the suspension of all elections in 2012. [Yes, he can do that under certain conditions...like civil unrest/violence/rebellion. All he has to do is wag the dog.]

October 21, 2011 at 4:25 p.m.
headcoconut said...

When will any of you learn that the leader of any country is not the actual leader of that country? Follow the money and you learn who's really in charge. Obama, like Bush and all the leaders before them were just figureheads.

October 21, 2011 at 4:32 p.m.

"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."

This really needs to be said again and again. Obama is doing nothing more than following the deal as agreed upon.

October 21, 2011 at 5:57 p.m.
328Kwebsite said...

Having spent several years of my life in Iraq, I was glad to hear that President Obama made this announcement today.

I do not regard it as an opportunity to sing the praises of the Bush administration or blame President Obama for anything.

I noticed that recent news stories have not mentioned the count of State Department workers who will remain in Iraq. A recent Washington Post story, 08OCT2011, noted that 16,000 US State Department employees were incountry and expected to remain. Those people don't seem to be included in the troop withdrawal accounting.

As a veteran, to me that means that when Republicans regain control of the White House, they will attempt to exploit that large embassy force into a vehicle for more expensive defense contracts. Their poor track record in that area has at times masked up to 50% of the personnel count of US citizens in AFPAK and ITO.

I notice also that the balance of troops may have shifted to Afghanistan, but the total count deployed to theater remain roughly consistent with Bush-era averages. The announced troop reductions do not imply a firm end to these wars in sight.

Completely absent from this discussion has been the staffing, troop levels and activities in Kuwait, which remains a key port in the area. Most troops going to CENTCOM bases pass through Kuwait. What happens in Kuwait is an observably true indicator of our commitment to troop levels in the region. So far, it implies that nothing has changed.

We're heartened to hear that Bush-era incursions into Iraq are coming to a close. Most veterans of that war have long heard rumors of permanent US bases in Iraq. Until we see, actually observe, a true and distinct change in what's happening in CENTCOM, we will have to take this as one more empty press briefing.

We look forward to everyone coming back home.

October 21, 2011 at 7:02 p.m.
macropetala8 said...

Thanks 328Kwbsite. Of all people, you should know. And I'd like to add: This draw down or withdrawal is just a lull. A resting period, so to speak, in preparations for things to come. 100 Special Forces were recently sent to Africa as advisors. Isn't that how Vietnam first started out? Sending in advisors, then more troops had to go in to assist those advisors, and more to assist those and on and........until

October 21, 2011 at 8:14 p.m.
acerigger said...

328Kwebsite ,as I understand it, there will remain in Iraq some 10,000 "state dept employees"(?) with a "security"force of about 5,500 mercenaries,hired-guns,ex-Blackwater(ze),whatever. It don't sound like a good scenario does it? Eric Alterman has a good run-down on it,so does Tom Englehardt @tomdispatch.com

October 21, 2011 at 11:35 p.m.
LibDem said...

"Took him long enough." Ideally, a US President should never comply with an agreement made by a predecessor.

"Just like obama to take credit for something he didnt even do." The announcement should've been made by Donald Trump.

October 23, 2011 at 10:16 a.m.
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