Obama Declares an End to the Iraq War

by The Associated Press

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withdrawn from the country by year's end.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."