US announces withdrawal from Iraq

AFP and Reuters, BAGHDAD and Washington

Sun, Oct 23, 2011 - Page 1

Iraqis voiced happiness yesterday over US President Barack Obama’s declaration that US forces would leave by the end of the year.

The decision to withdraw all remaining soldiers in the country after nearly nine years of war and the deaths of more than 4,400 US troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis came after Baghdad and Washington failed to agree to legal immunity for a training mission beyond this year.

“The day of their departure represents a historic moment and I will be the happiest person with the exit of the occupier from our country,” said Abdulrahman Munshid al-Assi, a leader of the al-Obeid tribe in Kirkuk.

Despite largely focusing on training and equipping their Iraqi counterparts, the US military is still widely seen as an occupying force and many in the country voiced happiness over its imminent departure.

Aslan Abdulrahman Ahmed, a Turkmen who owns a coffee shop in the city, added that Obama’s announcement “represents a victory for the Iraqi resistance and all those freed who suffered from American policy in Iraq”.

“But the government and politicians must be united and stand in the face of any regional intervention and they must focus on the development of the security forces,” he added.

After months of negotiations with officials in Baghdad failed to reach an agreement to keep perhaps thousands of US troops in Iraq as trainers, Obama announced on Friday he would stick to plans pull out entirely by the end of the year.

“As promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over,” Obama told reporters.

The full withdrawal of US troops, with the exception of about 160 soldiers who will remain behind under US Department of State authority to train Iraqi forces and a small contingent of soldiers guarding the US embassy, marks a major milestone in the war that started in 2003 and resulted in the removal of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein from power.

An estimated 4,479 US troops were killed in the Iraq war.