Saturday, October 22, 2011

Obama Says All Troops Will Leave Iraq By Dec. 31

WASHINGTON - President Obama said Oct. 21 that all U.S. troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year, ending a long, bloody war after the failure of talks on keeping a small American training force in the country.
President Obama announces Oct. 21 that all U.S. troops will leave Iraq by Dec. 31. (Jim Watson / Agence France-Presse)
After the deaths of more than 4,400 U.S. troops, tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians and the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars, Obama said the last American soldier would leave with his head held high.
"Today I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over," Obama said at a White House news conference.
"Today, I can say that our troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays," said Obama, who rose to power in opposing the unpopular Iraq war and pledged as a presidential candidate to bring all U.S. troops home.
"The United States is moving forward to a position of strength. The long war in Iraq will come to an end by the end of this year," he said, nearly nine years after President George W. Bush invaded Iraq and ousted Saddam Hussein.
Obama made the announcement after holding a video conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and the failure of talks between the two sides on keeping a small number of troops in Iraq after the end of 2011.
It also came after his credentials as commander in chief, bolstered by the killing of Osama bin Laden and top al-Qaida suspects, were further enhanced by the Oct. 20 death of Moammar Gadhafi after a NATO mission in support of Libyan rebels.
"Just as Iraqis have persevered through war, I'm confident that they can build a future worthy of their history as a cradle of civilization," Obama said, as officials said Iraqi forces were up to the task of ensuring security.
"We'll partner with an Iraq that contributes to regional security and peace, just as we insist that other nations respect Iraq's sovereignty," he said, in an apparent reference to Iraq's neighbor Iran.
Talks on extending the U.S. presence broke down because the sides were unable to agree on granting legal immunity for American troops who would have stayed in place to help train Iraqi forces and to counter Iran.
Al-Maliki said in a brief statement that he and Obama agreed on the decision to withdraw all U.S. troops.
"The two points of view of the two leaders were the same, of the necessity of beginning a new phase of strategic relations after carrying out the withdrawal at the specified date at the end of the year," he said.
Despite the disagreement, Obama said U.S. troops will leave Iraq "with their heads held high, proud of their success."
"The transition in Afghanistan is moving forward and our troops are finally coming home," Obama said.
The 39,000 remaining U.S. troops in Iraq must withdraw by Dec. 31 under an accord between the two countries.
Obama said that he had invited Maliki to visit the White House in December, as the two sides revert to a normal sovereign relationship between two nations.
He also placed the withdrawal from Iraq in the context of efforts to transfer responsibility for security to Afghan forces and the stepped-up U.S. battle against al-Qaida in Yemen and Pakistani tribal areas.
"I would note that the end of war in Iraq reflects a larger transition. The tide of war is receding," Obama said. "The drawdown in Iraq allowed us to refocus our fight against al-Qaida and the chief major victories against its leadership, including Osama bin Laden."

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