U.S. to Withdraw Troops From Iraq This Year

Posted October 22nd, 2011 at 4:25 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama has announced that American troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year.

The president made the statement Friday after a videoconference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

In remarks in the White House press briefing room, Mr. Obama said U.S. troops in Iraq “will definitely be home for the holidays.” He said he and Mr. Maliki were in agreement on that decision.

Mr. Obama said the U.S. relationship with Iraq will enter a “new phase” based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

Mr. Maliki released a statement shortly after, saying he and Mr. Obama had identical viewpoints in terms of starting a new relationship after the troop withdrawal is complete.

About 39,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, down from a high of about 165,000 in 2008.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said later Friday that the United States will negotiate with the Iraqi government after the end of 2011 about a possible American role to train Iraqi forces.

About 150 U.S. troops will stay behind after the end of the year in Iraq, where some will be part of the U.S. embassy's security force.

Before Friday's announcement, the possibility had remained that U.S. troops would extend their presence in the nation past the December 31 deadline set in 2008. Mr. Obama and Mr. Maliki had been negotiating that issue.

Republicans sharply criticized the planned withdrawal. Senator John McCain, who was Mr. Obama's rival in the 2008 presidential election, described it as “consequential failure” of both the U.S. and Iraqi government. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Mr. Obama's decision not to push for U.S. troops to remain in Iraq is, as he put it, an “astonishing failure.”

The war, begun in March 2003, is one of the longest military conflicts in U.S. history. More than 4,400 U.S. troops have died in the conflict.