Obama announces Iraq troop withdrawal by end of year
REPORTING FROM WASHINGTON -- President Obama announced Friday that he is bringing all U.S. troops home from Iraq at year’s end, closing out a war that has lasted nearly nine years and killed nearly 4,500 Americans.
The announcement of a complete withdrawal came after the White House and the Iraqi government failed to reach an agreement that would have left some U.S. forces in Iraq to provide security and function as trainers.
The White House said that all of the approximately 40,000 troops now serving in Iraq will come home by the end of 2011. Only a “normal embassy presence" will remain, a White House official said.
“Today I can say our troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays," Obama said in an appearance in the news briefing room.
Earlier in the day, Obama took part in a secure video conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Malaki, in which the two leaders discussed the pullout.
“During their conversation, Obama and Maliki strongly agreed that this is the best way forward for both countries," another White House official said.
The end of the U.S. military's role fulfills a promise Obama made on the campaign trail in 2008, when he argued that the Iraq war diverted scarce resources from the fight against terrorism at a high cost to taxpayers. The war helped distinguish then-Sen. Obama from his main opponent in the Democratic primaries, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
As a senator, Clinton had voted to authorize the war. Obama, for his part, delivered a speech opposing the U.S. invasion.
Obama made the withdrawal announcement one day after the killing of longtime Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi, a development that some experts say vindicated his strategy for assisting rebel forces. The two conflicts underscore the difference in how Obama and his immediate predecessor wage war.
Where George W. Bush deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein with a massive deployment of U.S. forces, Obama opted for different tactics in Libya, relying on an international coalition, intelligence and airstrikes to help force Kadafi from power.
-- Peter Nicholas
Photo: A U.S. Army soldier Saturday walks past military Humvees that are ready to be shipped out of Iraq at Camp Sather in Baghdad. Credit: Khalid Mohammed / Associated Press