COS KALSU: At a US base south of Baghdad, trucks plod in either direction amid a hive of activity: with the clock ticking on a year-end withdrawal, preparations are in full swing.
Barack Obama: All US troops to leave Iraq in 2011
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The United States and Iraq affirmed today that the U.S. will fulfill its commitments under the current U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement and withdraw all of our military forces by the end of 2011.
Today’s announcement means that at the end of this year, there will be a clear end to the U.S. combat presence in Iraq. I wanted to take this opportunity to express my profound gratitude and appreciation to our men and women in uniform who have served in Iraq since 2003. Our troops and their families have borne a heavy burden during more than eight years of war, and paid a great price. Yet it is a testament to their strength and resilience that we are now able to bring this war to a responsible end. Thanks to their service and sacrifice, Iraq is ready to govern and defend itself and to contribute to security and stability in a vital part of the world.
We will now turn our full attention to pursuing a long-term strategic partnership with Iraq based on mutual interests and mutual respect. Our goal will be to establish a normal relationship similar to others in the region that focuses on meeting security and training needs. Iraq is a sovereign nation that must determine how to secure its own future. Going forward, we will work closely with the Iraqi government and their armed forces to help them continue to build a stronger and more prosperous country.
The Pentagon denied reports Saturday that the U.S. abandoned plans to keep several thousand troops in Iraq after a year-end deadline, saying talks with Baghdad were still underway.
In a statement to reporters, Pentagon press secretary George Little denied the news reports: “Suggestions that a final decision has been reached about our training relationship with the Iraqi government are wrong. Those discussions are ongoing,” Little said.
The U.S. is still itching to keep about 5,000 additional troops past the deadline in December. The Maliki government – circumventing Parliament – initially agreed to the deal, but talks reached an impasse over granting the additional troops immunity from Iraqi law.
Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh last week suggested that Iraq was prepared to bow out of the deal, and instead rely on private contractors for “training” programs in 2012 and beyond.
A senior Obama administration official in Washington anonymously confirmed to The Associated Press on Saturday that all American troops will leave Iraq except for about 160 active-duty soldiers attached to the U.S. Embassy.
But whether a few thousand or a few hundred, the decrease in the number of troops from the current 41,000 seems unlikely to change Iraq’s new client state status. An effective occupation is not even being negotiated upon. Antiwar
The Status of Forces Agreement signed by Iraq and the United States during the Bush administration says all U.S. troops must leave Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011. Huffington Post
After more than eight years of war, many weary Iraqis are ready to see U.S. troops go, and staunchly defend their national sovereignty against an American force they see as occupiers. NPR
The politics of occupation have not changed. For months, American officials warned the Iraqis that if they did not issue a formal request to stay it would become logistically impossible to slow the pullout. NY Times
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta supports a plan that would keep 3,000 to 4,000 troops on the ground in Iraq after this year’s withdrawal deadline. Politico
Panetta demanded that the Iraqi government ensure explicit and complete immunity for all U.S. soldiers that remain in the nation beyond the end of the year. Antiwar.com
Iraqi leaders, however, insist that “only U.S. trainers could stay, and since they were to remain on Iraqi military bases and not participate in missions, they didn’t need the blanket legal immunity troops have enjoyed for years.” Antiwar.com
Many analysts believe that the construction of a $600 million Vatican-size U.S. embassy in the heart of Baghdad signifies a permanent presence in Iraq. Fox News