By Julian E Barnes and Carol Lee

U.S. Army soldiers make their way to a C-130 aircraft at Sather Air Base in Baghdad to begin their journey home on Aug 2.

President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. will pull out all of its troops from Iraq by the end of December, drawing the nine-year war to a conclusion.

The announcement signals the imminent end of a war that has cost the U.S. more than $800 billion dollars and claimed the lives of 3,525 American service members.

Obama administration officials had considered extending the U.S. troop presence beyond the end of the year, leaving a force of between 3,000 and 5,000 for contingencies. The proposal was controversial, dividing administration officials. But the president’s announcement will settle the debate and spell an end to the U.S. troop presence.

Military leaders wanted to keep a presence in Iraq to serve as a training role, and a deterrent to Iranian meddling in Iraq’s affairs.

But negotiations with a divided Iraqi government foundered over the issue of whether U.S. forces should be given a measure of immunity from Iraq laws while serving in the country. The military routinely demands such protections as a condition of deploying troops abroad, but Iraqi officials balked.

Even with a full troop withdrawal, a very small number of military personnel will remain in Baghdad and at U.S. diplomatic facilities to help Iraq with matters such as purchases of American weapons systems, including Abrams tanks and F-16 fighters. But there will be no long-term military-led training program.

Mr. Obama held a secure conference call Friday morning with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in which the president and Mr. Maliki “strongly agreed that this is the best way forward for both countries,” a White House official said.

As published in www.wsj.com on October 21, 2011.


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By Julian E Barnes and Carol Lee President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. will pull out all of its troops from Iraq by the end of December,…

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