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U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday announced all U.S. troops stationed in Iraq will pull out of that country by the end of this year, and the Iraq War will be over.
Obama made the statement after speaking with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki via video conference, and he reaffirmed U. S. commitment of drawdown to the Iraqi leader. He said both leaders agreed to the decision.
"After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over," Obama said, after over 4,400 U.S. solders were killed there and tens of thousands Iraqi lives lost in the war.
Obama said after U.S. troops are pulled out from Iraq, the relationship between the two countries will be "one normal relationship between sovereign nations," and he will be welcoming Maliki to the White House for a visit in December.
Obama vowed the United States will have "strong and enduring partnership" with Iraq, which he defined as "an equal partnership based on mutual interests and mutual respect."
Under a security agreement reached with Iraq in 2008, the United States would pull out all its troops from that country by Dec. 31. But the administration had been negotiating with Iraq on leaving some troops behind as trainers. Whether the troops would have immunity was said to be the sticking point in discussions.
Denis McDonough, Obama's deputy national security advisor, told reporters in the White House that the two sides did talk about the immunity issue, but the decision to withdraw is not based on it. He said the decision is reflective of both sides' views of "the kind of relationship both nations want to have."
After ending combat mission in Iraq last year, the U.S. military's role in Iraq has been mostly about training and advising. There are about 40,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
By pulling troops out of Iraq, Obama kept a major campaign promise. He said by ending the Iraq War, the administration can focus more on the ailing economy.
"After a decade of war the nation that we need to build and the nation that we will build is our own, an America that sees its economic strength restored just as we've restored our leadership around the globe," said the President.