Iraq withdrawal: With US troops set to exit, 9-year war draws to close
Iraq withdrawal will occur by the end of this year, President Obama announced Friday. For the 39,000 US troops still in Iraq, withdrawal means most will be home for the holidays.
President Obama announced Friday that all US troops will be out of Iraq by the end of this year, closing a war that deposed a tyrant and much-feared regional bully – but at great cost to both Iraq and the United States.Skip to next paragraph
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“After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over,” Mr. Obama declared at the White House. Most of the 39,000 troops still in Iraq should be “home for the holidays,” the president added, although the logistical challenges involved in removing so many soldiers in such a short time could mean the final few will not leave until January.
Obama’s announcement signals that US officials have been unable to negotiate with Iraq’s leaders a renewal of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) governing the stationing and mission of American troops on Iraqi soil. Pentagon officials in particular, backed by a number of congressional leaders, had called for leaving a force of between 3,000 and 5,000 in Iraq for an extended period.
But Iraqi officials balked at extending the immunity from local laws and prosecution that currently covers US troops in the country – US troops in places like Germany, Japan, and South Korea operate with such immunity – and the Obama administration was unwilling to leave troops in Iraq without that coverage.
Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, will visit the White House in December to mark the end of one era in bilateral relations and the beginning of a new one, Obama said.
The end of the Iraq war – a campaign pledge Obama made in 2008 – allowed the US to mark what the president called “a larger transition” in US foreign policy. "The tide of war is receding," Obama said, noting that US forces are beginning to draw down in Afghanistan as well.
But Obama’s Iraq statement will inevitably lead to questions – and certainly to political debates, especially with the advent of a presidential campaign –ranging from “Was it worth it?” to “Did the war set back or advance the hegemonic goals of Iraq’s neighbor, Iran?”
A war that former President George W. Bush set in motion in March 2003 cost the lives of more than 4,400 American troops and rang up a tab of nearly $1 trillion. The war ended the reign of Saddam Hussein – a tyrant akin to Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, killed Thursday at the hands of his own people – but it also set off a gruesome sectarian conflict that plunged Iraq into violence and economic collapse.