Almost a decade later, US to pull out of Iraq

2011-10-22 07:33

Washington – US President Barack Obama said yesterday he would pull US troops from Iraq this year, almost nine years after the US invasion, after he failed to convince Iraq that several thousand troops should remain in part as a balance against neighbouring Iran.

After months of negotiations with officials in Baghdad failed to reach an agreement to keep perhaps thousands of US troops in Iraq as trainers, Obama announced he would stick to plans pull out entirely by year’s end.

“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 told reporters.

The full withdrawal of American troops, with the exception of around 160 soldiers who will remain behind under State Department authority to train Iraqi forces and a small contingent of soldiers guarding the US embassy, marks a major milestone in the war that started in 2003 and resulted in the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.

An estimated 4 479 US troops were killed in the Iraq war.

Obama spoke after a video conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and said the two were in full agreement about how to move forward.

Both Obama and Maliki said the removal of the approximately 40 000 remaining troops would allow the two nations to move to a new phase in their closely intertwined yet complicated relationship.

“The two sides’ points of view were identical in terms of starting new phase of our strategic relations ... after achieving withdrawal at the end of the year,” Maliki’s office said in a statement.

But the announcement underscores the gaps that remain between US and Iraqi priorities and political realities.

Earlier this week, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said American and Iraqi officials were continuing discussions that might permit US soldiers to stay beyond a December 31 deadline.

In the end, the two countries were apparently unable to reach agreement over legal protections for any remaining US soldiers.

For months, Iraq’s fractured political elite was at odds over whether American soldiers should stay as trainers.

Baghdad rejected any legal immunity for US soldiers, and Washington said that meant no deal.

The US military role in Iraq has been mostly reduced to advising the security forces in a country where levels of violence had declined sharply from a peak of sectarian strife in 2006-2007, but attacks remain a daily occurrence.

Senior Iraqis say in private they would like a US troop presence to keep the peace between Iraqi Arabs and Kurds in a dispute over who controls oil-rich areas in the north of Iraq.

Yet as the Obama administration frets about the influence of Baghdad’s neighbour Tehran, the US presence will remain substantial. US officials say the embassy in Baghdad, an imposing, fortified complex by the Tigris River in Baghdad’s Green Zone, will be the largest in the world. 

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.