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Obama Aims to Withdaw Most Troops by End of Year

AP | 10/21/2011, 2:36 p.m.
President Barack Obama announced on Oct 21 that the United States will withdraw nearly all...
Obama wants most U.S. troops in Iraq withdrawn by end of 2011./Courtesy Photo

President Barack Obama announced on Oct 21 that the United States will withdraw nearly all troops from Iraq by the end of the year, effectively bringing the long and polarizing war in Iraq to an end.

"After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over," said Obama.

He said the last American troops will depart the country by Jan. 1 "with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops."

"The transition in Afghanistan is moving forward, and our troops are finally coming home," he added, saying in the White House briefing room that U.S. troops "will definitely be home for the holidays."

The war in Iraq has meant the death of more than 4,400 U.S. troops and come at a cost of more than $1 trillion. Asked in a briefing following Obama's remarks if it was worth it, Antony Blinken, National Security Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, said, "history is going to have to judge."

U.S. and Iraqi officials have spent months debating whether to honor a planned December 31 deadline for troop withdrawal, set in 2008, amid concerns that the full withdrawal of U.S. forces could put the country at risk. Many U.S. officials wanted to leave a few thousand military trainers in the country past the end of the year, but, as the Associated Press reported on Oct. 16, "Iraqi leaders have adamantly refused to give U.S. troops immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts, and the Americans have refused to stay without it."

America has already withdrawn nearly 100,000 troops from Iraq already as part of the current draw-down; about 40,000 "non-combat" troops remain. Obama said Friday that "Iraqis have taken full responsibility for their country's security" and said that the relationship between the United States and Iraq going forward will be one of equals.

"It will be a normal relationship between sovereign nations, an equal partnership based on mutual interest and mutual respect," he said.

Obama discussed the planned announcement earlier in the day with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki over secure video conference. He said al-Maliki "spoke of the determination of the Iraqi people to forge their own future," and that the two leaders are "in full agreement about how to move forward."