President Barack Obama has declared an end to the Iraq war and said all US troops will be withdrawn from the country by the end of this year.
Mr Obama’s statement ended months of wrangling over whether the US 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 US troops in Iraq as a training force and a hedge against meddling from Iran or other outside forces. Instead, Mr Obama spoke of a promise kept, a new day for a self-reliant Iraq, and a focus on building up the economy of the United States instead of a land far away.
“I can report that as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year,” Mr Obama said. “After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.”
Mr 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 US military presence in Iraq stands at about 40,000. All US troops are to leave under a deal struck between the countries in 2008 when George Bush was President. Mr Obama, an opponent of the war from the start – a conflict that has been one of the longest and most divisive in US history – took office and accelerated the end of the conflict. In August 2010, he declared the US combat mission was over.
Yesterday, Mr Obama said: “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. 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 personnel have been killed since the US-led invasion began in March 2003.