Obama Declares Iraq War Over
Sam Youngman, The Hill
resident Obama announced Friday that the U.S. will complete its drawdown of troops by the end of the year, concluding the war in Iraq after almost nine years.
Obama, who sprang to national prominence with his condemnation of the war begun by his predecessor, declared in the White House briefing room that "after nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over."
The president spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki earlier Friday, and Obama said the two leaders are in "full agreement about how to move forward."
Obama said he invited Maliki to the White House in December to discuss the "normal" relationship the two nations will now enjoy.
"This will be a strong and enduring partnership," Obama said.
White House officials had considered leaving a few thousand troops in Iraq past the end of the year, but Iraqi officials were cold to the idea of immunity for soldiers remaining in Iraq.
Obama said that he and the Iraqi government will "continue discussions" on how to continue training and equipping Iraqi forces.
The president noted that troops are also drawing down in Afghanistan, saying that when he took office there were more than 180,000 troops deployed in both wars. By the end of the year, Obama said, that number will be halved.
"And make no mistake, it will continue to go down," Obama said, declaring that "the tide of war is receding."
Obama closed by summing up other foreign policy successes, including Thursday's news from Libya, and saying that America is leaving Iraq from "a position of strength."
Now, Obama said, the task for our veterans will be enlisting them in rebuilding the U.S. economy.
"After a decade of war, the nation that we need to build — and the nation we will build — is our own," Obama said.
Obama's announcement doesn't mean there won't still be a U.S. presence in Iraq.
The U.S. has an embassy and two consulates in the country, and the State Department has long been scheduled to take over the lead role for the U.S. mission in Iraq.
Foggy Bottom officials have been quietly building what some lawmakers have called a "private security force" that will be charged with keeping American diplomats and U.S. facilities safe once military troops are withdrawn. A handful of U.S. Marines will also be in Iraq to guard the U.S. diplomatic posts, as they are in other countries.
While the White House put the likely number of private security contractors who will be in Iraq come Jan. 1 at 4,000 to 5,000, Senate Armed Services Committee member Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said Wednesday that she understands that 14,000 of the 17,000 State Department personnel that will be in Iraq after the military withdrawal could be private contractors.
This story was posted at 12:38 p.m. and last updated at 1:44 p.m.
Oct. 21, 2011
Oct. 21, 2011