Iraq Withdrawal: U.S. Abandoning Plans To Keep Troops In Country

Iraq Troop Withdrawal

By LARA JAKES and REBECCA SANTANA   10/15/11 08:23 PM ET   AP

BAGHDAD -- The U.S. is abandoning plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq past a year-end withdrawal deadline, The Associated Press has learned. The decision to pull out fully by January will effectively end more than eight years of U.S. involvement in the Iraq war, despite ongoing concerns about its security forces and the potential for instability.

The decision ends months of hand-wringing by U.S. officials over whether to stick to a Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline that was set in 2008 or negotiate a new security agreement to ensure that gains made and more than 4,400 American military lives lost since March 2003 do not go to waste.

In recent months, Washington has been discussing with Iraqi leaders the possibility of several thousand American troops remaining to continue training Iraqi security forces. A Pentagon spokesman said Saturday that no final decision has been reached about the U.S. training relationship with the Iraqi government.

But a senior Obama administration official in Washington confirmed Saturday that all American troops will leave Iraq except for about 160 active-duty soldiers attached to the U.S. Embassy.

A senior U.S. military official confirmed the departure and said the withdrawal could allow future but limited U.S. military training missions in Iraq if requested.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Throughout the discussions, Iraqi leaders have adamantly refused to give U.S. troops immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts, and the Americans have refused to stay without it. Iraq's leadership has been split on whether it wanted American forces to stay. Some argued the further training and U.S. help was vital, particularly to protect Iraq's airspace and gather security intelligence. But others have deeply opposed any American troop presence, including Shiite militiamen who have threatened attacks on any American forces who remain.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has told U.S. military officials that he does not have the votes in parliament to provide immunity to the American trainers, the U.S. military official said.

A western diplomatic official in Iraq said al-Maliki told international diplomats he will not bring the immunity issue to parliament because lawmakers will not approve it.

A White House spokesman, Tommy Vietor, said discussions with Iraq about the security relationship between the two countries next year were ongoing.

Pentagon press secretary George Little said the U.S. remains "committed to keeping our agreement with the Iraqi government to remove all of our troops by the end of this year."

"At the same time we're building a comprehensive partnership with Iraq under the Strategic Framework Agreement including a robust security relationship, and discussions with the Iraqis about the nature of that relationship are ongoing," Little said.

The Strategic Framework Agreement allows for other forms of military cooperation besides U.S. troops on the ground. Signed at the same time as the security accord mandating the departure deadlines, it provides outlines for the U.S.-Iraqi relationship in such areas as economic, cultural and security cooperation.

Iraqi lawmakers excel at last-minute agreements. But with little wiggle room on the immunity issue and the U.S. military needing to move equipment out as soon as possible, a last-minute change between now and December 31 seems almost out of the question.

Regardless of whether U.S. troops are here or not, there will be a massive American diplomatic presence.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is the largest in the world, and the State Department will have offices in Basra, Irbil and Kirkuk as well as other locations around the country where contractors will train Iraqi forces on U.S. military equipment they're purchasing.

About 5,000 security contractors and personnel will be tasked with helping protect American diplomats and facilities around the country, the State Department has said.

The U.S. Embassy will still have a handful of U.S. Marines for protection and 157 U.S. military personnel in charge of facilitating weapons sales to Iraq. Those are standard functions at most American embassies around the world and would be considered part of the regular embassy staff.

When the 2008 agreement requiring all U.S. forces leave Iraq was passed, many U.S. officials assumed it would inevitably be renegotiated so that American forces could stay longer.

The U.S. said repeatedly this year it would entertain an offer from the Iraqis to have a small force stay behind, and the Iraqis said they would like American military help. But as the year wore on and the number of American troops that Washington was suggesting could stay behind dropped, it became increasingly clear that a U.S. troop presence was not a sure thing.

The issue of legal protection for the Americans was the deal-breaker.

Iraqis are still angry over incidents such as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal or Haditha, when U.S. troops killed Iraqi civilians in Anbar province, and want American troops subject to Iraqi law.

American commanders don't want to risk having their forces end up in an Iraqi courtroom if they're forced to defend themselves in a still-hostile environment.

It is highly unlikely that Iraqi lawmakers would have the time to approve a U.S. troop deal even if they wanted to. The parliament is in recess on its Hajj break until Nov. 20, leaving just a few weeks for legislative action before the end of year deadline.

Going down to zero by the end of this year would allow both al-Maliki and President Barack Obama to claim victory. Obama will have fulfilled a key campaign promise to end the war and al-Maliki will have ended the American presence in Iraq and restored Iraqi sovereignty.

The Iraqi prime minister was also under intense pressure from his anti-American allies, the Sadrists, to reject any American military presence.

An advisor close to al-Maliki said the Americans suggested during negotiations that if no deal is reached in time, U.S. troops could be stationed in Kuwait.

With the U.S. military presence in Iraq currently at about 41,000 and heading down to zero, almost all of those forces will be flowing out of Iraq into Kuwait and then home or other locations.

A western expert in Iraq said it is conceivable that if the Iraqi government asks early next year for U.S. troops to return, there will be forces still in Kuwait able to come back and do the job.

But he stressed that the core problems still remain on the Iraqi side about what types of legal immunity to give the American troops and whether parliament can pass it.


Associated Press writers Anne Gearan and Erica Werner contributed from Washington.



BAGHDAD -- The U.S. is abandoning plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq past a year-end withdrawal deadline, The Associated Press has learned. The decision to pull out fully by January will effectively en...
BAGHDAD -- The U.S. is abandoning plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq past a year-end withdrawal deadline, The Associated Press has learned. The decision to pull out fully by January will effectively en...
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09:07 AM on 10/22/2011
Out of Iraq and on to Lybia, then Syria followed by Iran. Great job Obama - Warmonger in Chief
truth hurts!!!!
10:34 AM on 10/18/2011
09:44 AM on 10/18/2011
Really, last week it was Afganistan­, now it's Iraq. People WAKE UP. Let these people continue to fight themselves­. What is the death toll between the two bout 10,000 of OUR troops, lets not forget those that are coming home with permanent disabilite­s. Our goverment isn't telling us about the ones that have to serve tours to "PROTECT" the embassy. Yea that worked out real well with Somilia didn't it?
Retired fishing for the truth.
08:54 AM on 10/18/2011
We have been fighting this war for over ten years now, which in itself is a milestone, ... .we fought World War 2 and the Korean War in lot less time. Plus our credit card is about to expire at the end of the year.
Rosie outlook all the way
01:55 PM on 10/18/2011
Our credit card expired long ago, always rememberin­g Cheneys "deficits don't matter" statement.
Retired fishing for the truth.
02:28 PM on 10/18/2011
You're so right...LO­L...Dick Cheney famous words...he­re a fan and favorite for you.
Peter Combs
Amused by the illogical..no, NOT a Republican
08:45 AM on 10/18/2011
Its amazing how much you can get done with an election looming large and you have little to nothing else to campaign on....

Regardless­, I am delighted.­..and lets not send them off to some other mess. Bring them STRAIGHT HOME....en­ough is enough, and then Afganistan­...Usma is Dead as is most of his crew, its over...
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08:07 AM on 10/18/2011
Amazing. Exactly on Bush's SOFA timetable. And Obama tries to take credit.

We need change.
Rosie outlook all the way
01:59 PM on 10/18/2011
When was Bush proclaimin­g "mission accomplish­ed" what year again? He left office and dumped in Pres. Obamas lap. Credit goes to where Credit belongs and it's not with BUSH. Thank you Pres. Obama, sorry that hurts you!
Rosie outlook all the way
03:43 PM on 10/18/2011
Not sorry that it hurts you Pres. Obama but sorry that it hurts you Katooom!

Thanks again Pres. Obama.
03:49 AM on 10/18/2011
As "Seen" (without evidence) in L|by@:

""Already, the Ugandan government says there are more than 10,000 men and women from this poverty-st­ricken East African nation working as private security guards in Iraq. Hired out to multibilli­on-dollar companies for hundreds of dollars a month, they risk their lives seeking fortunes protecting US Army bases, airports, and oil firms.""

So when is the UNSC passing a resolution­, imposing a no-fly-zon­e and allowing the internatio­nal community the authority to Liberate |r@q from her occupiers?

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retired: RN,Adult NP,USAR
02:57 AM on 10/18/2011
Bring them home!
01:32 AM on 10/18/2011
oh puleeze we should have never been there in the first place. while we are at it get out of pakistan afghanista­n and leave iran alone we have enough problems here in the good old usa to worry about instead of invading countries that didnt bother us in the first place nor who like us
Sol Cholo
learn to corner and run hard in the straights
12:45 AM on 10/18/2011
Score!!! And Obama does it again! The man is rack'en up the wins!!!!
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08:08 AM on 10/18/2011
No. This is simply Bush's SOFA timetable agreement with Iraq from before he left office.
Alan Wolfe's "The Future of Liberalism"
02:18 PM on 10/18/2011
Actually, it was a drasticall­y accelerate­d timeline, with the applicatio­n of a hard end-date, rather than the soft-date that Bush's agreement was based on.

Then again, actual facts, I'm assuming, haven't been grounds for you to change your mind anyway.
Core 'Ngrato
12:29 AM on 10/18/2011
Time to get ready for Iran, and Africa.
11:48 PM on 10/17/2011
Hmmm...Don­'t bet on it.
Mistinguette Grandison
09:46 AM on 10/18/2011
It will happen. The trend has been moving downward, so it's very likely to be so.
cooler than the other side of the pillow
10:31 PM on 10/17/2011
dissatisfied 99%er
09:13 PM on 10/17/2011
Americans want our troops home.   So do our allies in NATO.   Time to let the locals sort it out in Afghanista­n as well as Iraq.    Take all our guns and bullets too.
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From the opium of custom to the ledges of extreme
08:55 PM on 10/17/2011
exit troops, enter Xe (blackwate­r)
...and all that money
03:50 AM on 10/18/2011
And we all know how they seek to end every conflict they are involved in because it's so good for profits...­...