Pres. Obama: "troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays"
"After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over, " President Barack Obama said Friday, October 21, 2011 in announcing the full withdrawal of U.S. troops by the end of the year. He added, "Today I can say that our troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays." (Brian Yaklyvich/CNN)
October 21st, 2011
02:48 PM ET

Pres. Obama: "troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays"

This afternoon President Obama stepped into the press briefing room at the White House to announce that he had just spoken via secure videoconference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and reaffirmed his commitment to remove all U.S. troops from his country by the end of the year.

“After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over,” Obama said. “Over the next two months, our troops in Iraq, tens of thousands of them, will pack up their gear and board convoys for the journey home. The last American soldier will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops. That is how America's military efforts in Iraq will end.”

CNN’s national security unit reported on October 17 that the United States and Iraq have been unable to come to an agreement on key issue regarding legal immunity for U.S. troops who would remain in Iraq after the end of the year. A senior U.S. military official with direct knowledge of the discussions told CNN on Monday that this effectively ended discussion of maintaining a significant American force presence after the end of 2011.

There are approximately 39,000 U.S. troops currently in Iraq and the U.S. had initially wanted to keep between 3,000 and 5,000 troops in Iraq beyond the end of 2011. Although a small number of U.S. troops will remain attached to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, today’s announcement shows that the Obama administration is going against the recommendations of many senior Republicans in Congress.

Already the president’s announcement has been received with trepidation by Republicans on Capitol Hill. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham – a senior member of the Senate Armed Services committee – released a statement expressing his skepticism that the president’s plan will succeed.

“I respectfully disagree with President Obama,” Graham’s statement read. “I feel all we have worked for, fought for, and sacrificed for is very much in jeopardy by today’s announcement. I hope I am wrong and the President is right, but I fear this decision has set in motion events that will come back to haunt our country.”

Rep. "Buck" McKeon – chairman of the House Armed Services Committee – released a similar statement. "I remain concerned that this full withdrawal of US forces will make that road tougher than it needs to be,” McKeon’s statement read. “Multiple experts have testified before my committee that the Iraqis still lack important capacities in their ability to maintain their internal stability and territorial integrity.  These shortcomings could reverse the decade of hard work and sacrifice both countries have endured to build a free Iraq.”

Senate Democrats have come out in support of the president’s decision, especially in light of the Iraqi government’s refusal to guarantee immunity for U.S. troops.

“I was prepared to support a continued presence of U.S. trainers in Iraq beyond the end of this year,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said in a statement. “But in light of Iraq’s refusal to eliminate the possibility that U.S. troops would face prosecutions in Iraqi courts, President Obama has made the right decision.”

Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry also released a statement supporting the president’s decision.

Here is the president’s full remarks:

Good afternoon, everybody. As a candidate for president, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end for the sake of our national security and to strengthen American leadership around the world.

After taking office, I announced a new strategy that would end our combat mission in Iraq and remove all of our troops by the end of 2011.

As commander-in-chief, ensuring the success of this strategy has been one of my highest national security priorities.  Last year I announced the end to our combat mission in Iraq, and to date we've removed more than 100,000 troops.  Iraqis have taken full responsibility for their country's security.

A few hours ago I spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki.  I reaffirmed that the United States keeps its commitments.  He spoke of the determination of the Iraqi people to forge their own future.  We are in full agreement about how to move forward.

So today I can report that, 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.

Over the next two months, our troops in Iraq, tens of thousands of them, will pack up their gear and board convoys for the journey home.  The last American soldier will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops.  That is how America's military efforts in Iraq will end.

But even as we mark this important milestone, we're also moving into a new phase in the relationship between the United States and Iraq.  As of January 1st, and in keeping with our strategic framework agreement with Iraq, it will be a normal relationship between sovereign nations, an equal partnership based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

In today's conversation, Prime Minister Maliki and I agreed that a meeting of the Higher Coordinating Committee of the Strategic Framework Agreement will convene in the coming weeks.  And I invited the prime minister to come to the White House in December as we plan for all the important work that we have to do together.

This will be a strong and enduring partnership.  With our diplomats and civilian advisers in the lead, we will help Iraqi strengthen institutions that are just, representative, and accountable.  We'll build new ties of trade and of commerce, culture and education that unleash the potential of the Iraqi people.

We'll partner with an Iraq that contributes to regional security and peace, just as we insist that other nations respect Iraq's sovereignty.

As I told Prime Minister Maliki, we will continue discussions on how we might help Iraq train and equip its forces, again, just as we offer training and assistance to countries around the world.  After all, there will be some difficult days ahead for Iraq and the United States will continue to have an interest in an Iraq that is stable, secure and self-reliant.

Just as Iraqis have persevered through war, I'm confident that they can build a future worthy of their history as a cradle of civilization.

Here at home, the coming months will be another season of homecomings.  Across America, our servicemen and -women will be reunited with their families.  Today, I can say that our troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays.  This December will be a time to reflect on all that we've been through in this war.

I'll join the American people in paying tribute to the more than 1 million Americans who have served in Iraq.  We'll honor our many wounded warriors and the nearly 4,500 American patriots and their Iraqi and coalition partners who gave their lives to this effort.

And finally, I would note that the end of war in Iraq reflects a larger transition.  The tide of war is receding.  The drawdown in Iraq allowed us to refocus our fight against Al Qaida and the chief major victories against its leadership, including Osama bin Laden.

Now, as we remove our last troops from Iraq, we'll beginning to bring our troops home from Afghanistan, where we'd begun a transition to Afghan security and leadership.
When I took office, roughly 180,000 troops were deployed in both these wars.  And by the end of this year that number will be cut in half.

And make no mistake, they will continue to go down.

Meanwhile, yesterday marked the definitive end of the Gadhafi regime in Libya.  And their, too, our military played a critical role in shaping a situation on the ground in which the Libyan people can build their own future.

Today, NATO's working to bring this successful mission to a close.

So to sum up, the United States is moving forward (inaudible) position of strength.  The long war in Iraq will come to an end by the end of this year.

The transition in Afghanistan is moving forward, and our troops are finally coming home. As they do, fewer deployments and more time training will help keep our military the very best in the world.  And as we welcome home our newest veterans, we'll never stop working to give them and their families the care, the benefits and the opportunities that they have earned.

This includes enlisting our veterans in the greatest challenge that we now face as a nation, creating opportunity and jobs in this country, because 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.

Thank you very much.

Topics: Iraq • President Obama

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soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Jay in NC

    November 2008, President Bush negotiated and Iraq signed The U.S.–Iraq Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). It established that U.S. combat forces would withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009, and all U.S. forces will be completely out of Iraq by December 31, 2011.

    October 21, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • From IL

      Jay in NC, I'm not sure if your point in posting that comment was to show that this was technically Bush's doing rather than Obama's, but if that is the case, funny how so many Republicans are harshly criticizing the President for sticking to this plan.

      I do agree that Bush deserves some credit for this. However, if John McCain (or any Republican for that matter) was in office right now, chances are high that our troops would not be coming home.

      October 21, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • jean2009

      @ Jay.....Bush is no longer in office, he was the person who originally jumped into Iraq looking for non-existent WMD. A war that should have not been. So who cares what President Bush did in 2008.

      Why then is it that Rethugliklans are up in arms over this President abiding by the original agreement? Didn't John McCain and the ditz from Alaska want our forces there for 100 years?

      Thank you President Obama, for doing what you said you would do from the start. Thank you for making the situation possible so our men can come home.

      Bush did nothing but prematurely shout "Mission Accomplished" while he had accomplished nothing. Our troop and President Obama did the heavy lifting in getting us to this point.

      Jay as per usual trying to rewrite history and give credit where none is due.

      October 22, 2011 at 10:42 am |
      • Jay in NC

        Jean, you say "So who cares what President Bush did in 2008." Will have to remember that the next time you blame the 2008 / 2009 unemployment numbers on him.

        President Bush is due some credit for ending the war. Your president has been following Bush's agenda / game plan including the Iraq troop draw down in Jun 2009, surge in Afghanistan, and the removal of combat troops from Iraq in Dec 2011. All of this was set in motion way before Barry took office.

        The Republicans are saying that we need a SOFA, some number (around 5,000) men to keep our interest secure. This is the same as we have in other parts of the world, the same as the Pentagon and NATO were asking for. President Barry failed to secure

        Oh, by the way McCain did not say that we WOULD be there for 100 years, he said "U.S. troops COULD spend maybe 100 years in Iraq" He was referring to a military presence, the same as Italy, France, you name it, even your president was looking for a way to keep forces there. Jean, you misquoted McCain, how can you understand your enemy if you do not even know what they said? Or, how can you ever persuade someone of your ideas if you are willing to lie?

        I personally am glad to see so many coming home. It is about time. Remember not all conservatives agreed with McCain, that is why he lost.

        October 22, 2011 at 11:44 am |
      • jean2009

        @ Jay .......Bush had 8 years of horrible policies to create those unemployment numbers, his spending for the unnecessary war in Iraq (looking for WMD and trying to one-up daddy) was part of the reason for our current unemployment numbers, and our current level of debt...$800 billion and the cost of an unknown number of years health care for our veterans.

        So. President Bush signed a agreement with the Iraqis agreeing to their date and conditions for our leaving. Many Iraqis actually wanted us out sooner. Remember the shoe throwing incident following the signing? Have you even read the SOFA pdf?

        President Bush came out of the SOFA agreement with less than he had hoped. He had hoped for a long-term American presence with bases in Iraqi, much like those in South Korea. The Iraqis stood firm for having all foreign military out by the end of 2011.

        Don't try to paint this as a Bush planned success. The final signing didn't happen until after the 2008 Presidential election (November 18, 2008, and the Iraqi parliament ratified the agreement on November 27, 2008).

        Read @ -Bush's Final Bruce Ackerman and Oona Hathaway posted Oct. 21, 2008.

        Just be glad that finally after 9 long years we are bringing our men and women home.

        October 23, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
      • Jay in NC

        Barry became president Jan 20, 2009. After the SOFA was signed.

        October 23, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
      • jean2009


        SOFA agreements are nothing new, we have had these agreements with every country including S. Korea, Japan, Germany where we have soldiers stationed and bases located. George W. Bush did not get what he wanted from the Iraqis which was to have been a permanent presence on Iraqi soil.

        Bush cannot take credit for bringing our troops home. He didn't get the agreement he wanted, and signed what he was basically sticking his successor with if you don't want to give the credit for bringing our troops home to President Obama, by all means give it to Nouri al-Maliki who did get the deal he wanted.

        Plan and simple, we would have been considerably better off had Bush never sent them to Iraq on an unnecessary wild goose chase. We can certainly thank Bush for doing nothing constructive.

        October 24, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Howard

      Let's see ... Libya is going sharia ... pulling our troops out of Iraq will invite an Iranian takeover ... Karzai is backing Pakistan against us ... and, obama takes a victory lap on his foreign policies, because 3 terrorists get assassinated ... while, biden boasts that their foreign pollicy should be used as a template throughout the region. And, when the caliphate arrives, thanks to their foolish blunders, they will try to blame it all on George Bush !!!

      October 24, 2011 at 12:24 am |
  2. Amused

    OMG You people are hilarious. There can not be ONE thing that this man does that you do not try and take credit for if its good or blame him for if it isnt. Jeez its pathetic! Is Bush the president in 2011? Did the current president give a directive? Jeez you people can really work a nerve! The real is that republicans havent done anything contructive for this country in years that includes BUSH 1, Regan, Bush 2 and your obstrucutionist cronies in congress. They are all a bunch of elitist bigots and those of you who cant give credit where its due know exactly what you are even if you wont admit it in mixed company!

    October 21, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  3. Im 15 years old

    finnaly our troops are comming home, thank you Mr. President... kinda sad that republicans are bashing Obama for bringing our troops home thinking "Iran would get stronger". WHO CARES. We can't babbysit other countries against terrorism. When our troops come home, we can now focus on our national security(against 9/11 attempts), fix our economy, protecting the border against illegals and cartels. AND LESS NEWS ABOUT TERRORISM!!

    October 21, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  4. Im 15 years old

    finnaly our troops are comming home, thank you Mr. President... kinda sad that republicans are bashing Obama for bringing our troops home thinking "Iran would get stronger". WHO CARES. We can't babbysit other countries against terrorism. When our troops come home, we can now focus on our national security(against 9/11 attempts), fix our economy, protecting the border agai
    nst illegals and cartels. AND LESS NEWS ABOUT TERRORISM!!

    October 21, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Dwyerjh

      15 yr old – I am 56, and I'm glad to see that someone your age is informed and has an opinion about what is going on in the world. Keep it up. The country won't get better if young people don't pay attention and take action.

      October 22, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  5. Disciple

    How much you wanna bet martial law get declared in this country becuase of the Occupy Wall Street movement?

    October 21, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  6. David

    So he plans on bringing 39,000 back to the U.S when 11,000 out of 50,000 will of course remain in Iraq. I think President Obama should bring ALL of the troops home from the places like Afghanistan and other places.

    October 21, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
  7. Earle Belle

    Sarah Palin Praises Ron Paul’s Foreign Policy

    Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin said the following on Sean Hannity’s FOX News program on 10/20/11:

    “You’ve got to give it to Ron Paul. Whether you agree with everything he says or not, at least he is one there in Congress trying to make our President stick to the law and understand that Congress does have a role to play in these foreign policy decisions that are made and Ron Paul, I think hit the nail on the head, when he came out and said Obama had better be careful when he interjects himself and our country in other nations’ business.”

    Of course, Sarah Palin is right.

    Mrs. Palin was seconding Paul’s criticism of President Obama’s decision to intervene in Libya, but I would add that unless the rest of the Republican presidential field also begins to become more selective about U.S. interventions, it will remain politically and mathematically impossible to actually reduce our debt in any serious manner. Our annual deficit is $1.5 trillion. Our total so-called national security spending is $1.2 trillion.

    Again, do the math. Ron Paul has. This is why he—alone among presidential candidates—was able to put together a budget featuring $1 trillion in real cuts.

    Ron Paul does not cut one penny from our actual defense. He cuts our irrational offense in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and gets rid of foreign aid. Paul agrees with Gov. Palin, that President Obama should be more “careful where he interjects himself and our country in other nations’ business.”

    Perhaps most importantly, it should be pointed out that although every conservative Republican claims to be for limited government, those who still think it should be virtually unlimited in the area of foreign policy will never be able tackle government spending in any substantive way.

    And here's a good letter making his own statements to you:
    Dear Fellow Conservative,

    Which candidate for President has received more contributions from active duty military than any other?

    You might be surprised.

    I am writing today to tell you about what our troops know that you should know.

    As a champion of limited constitutional government, I believe the first and foremost responsibility of the President and the entire federal government is our national defense.

    And as a veteran and a candidate for President of the United States, I take very seriously the solemn responsibility to keep America safe and strong.

    So won't you take a moment to watch my new TV ad, "Secure," which outlines my plan for our national defense?

    Click to Watch the Video

    – Show quoted text –
    Please take a moment to watch my latest ad, entitled "Secure."

    And if you would, please also forward this email to your friends and family, so they can read about my plan to keep America safe and secure.

    You can also learn more about my positions on my website –

    The good news is, polls have shown my campaign within striking distance of first place, and they now show me defeating President Obama in a head-to-head match up.

    As more voters realize I am the ONLY constitutional conservative in this race for President, my campaign will continue to grow.

    But to help me get my pro-national security message out to as many voters as possible, I'm hoping I can count on your financial support, as well.

    Together, you and I can Restore America Now!

    For Liberty,

    Ron Paul

    October 22, 2011 at 12:24 am |
  8. Tony

    Out of Iraq and into Afghanistan....big whoop.

    October 22, 2011 at 1:41 am |
  9. Liz Carter in Georgia

    Mercy...Mercy! WHEW! Good comments @From IL and @Amused! We all know what the bottomline is...RACISM! They however, like to spin it around and label the one who's calling it out the racist...that makes them feel better about themselves somehow. Sad. They can't stand to see an African American out-due them at anything; For GODS' sake! Certainly not being a President! 'THIS IS OUR COUNTRY'! Yep, if they can't REALLY put a nasty, negative spin on something OBAMA does that's positive and good, then BUSH DID IT!

    October 22, 2011 at 7:14 am |
    • hottie7

      You are so Right. But someone like Sara Palin hate to say something great about this President so she say Ron Paul speak the truth about the war.

      October 23, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  10. Dwyerjh

    Let's rejoice that this is happening, for all of the families of the troops back here. No more waiting for "the visit" telling the mtheir kid or spouse is dead. Let's give Obama and the military credit for following through. Separate from everyone's hatred or support of him. Then move on about things he's done wrong, but for now, why isn't this front page news?

    October 22, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  11. Dee

    Great Liz Carter you are right on

    October 22, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  12. TR

    Final...someone has said the magic words..."the African American President". We as American should be standing up saying thing like "Good Job Mr. President..Good Job",your face should be on "Mount Rushmore" but all the small minded people in the gop (I meant to use little letters) can say are something negative. Now they have this Clarence Thomas like brother to help with the BS. Also, I must say this I think the two Senator who voted "NO" on the Jobs Bill are really Republicans that ran as Democrats, you can not trust the gop. Check their records they always vote with them. They should be replace as well!

    October 22, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  13. Nathan

    By this time next year Al-Qaeda will be in control of Iraq. However, this all stems from the failure of Congress support to rebuild Afghanistan after the successful repel of Russian invasion in 1989. Our failure to show compassion and help rebuild the broken country; also, using US military to repel Saddam in 1991 instead of using Al-Qaeda pushed us to this point.

    October 22, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
  14. dmf0786

    This is a great news for the U. S. service men and women that 39, 000 U. S. soldiers would be coming home before the Holidays . This news must have shocked the neo cons , extremists right wing Republicans , and particularly Bush administration 's strategic foreign and defense policy advisers on the Iraq War . Nevertheless, this outcome was the common sense view , and predictable for Iraq War 's " end game ", if people in the streets of Bagdad and / or any other of the North African and Middle East Arab and Muslim country capital , would have ever been polled or consulted by the War planners . The cost of Iraq War for the U. S. economy have been huge ; about a trillion dollars , about 5, 000 thousand U. S. soldiers killed, 32, 000 injured and hundreds of thousands Iraqis killed , besides other losses of life and property World wide . It would take decades for the global economy to recovery and wounds of affected people to heal . The adverse impact caused by the War on terrorism across the Middle East countries , Pakistan and Afghanistan etc . have been immense and yet to be determined . This is just a beginning of shocking events , and developments of relationships , yet to come for Iraq . Iraq was a secular country for generations . The people responsible , and who plunged the U. S. in the two Wars and the economy into gutters , have not been identified yet , tried and made and accountable , for their crimes before an independent court of Law , U. S. Congress and /or international court of Justice .

    October 23, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • Jay in NC

      You are not very informed. Why would this news shocked the "Bush administration 's strategic foreign and defense policy advisers on the Iraq War?" President Bush negotiated the end of the war before Barry took office.

      Take a look at this ...

      November 2008, President Bush signed The U.S.–Iraq Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). It established that U.S. combat forces would withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009, and all U.S. forces will be completely out of Iraq by December 31, 2011.

      What is a shock is that Barry did not bring the troops home early, he chose to fight this war all the way to the very last day.

      October 23, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
      • jean2009

        Jay give the honor for bringing our troops home to Nouri al-Malaki he got the SOFA deal he wanted...George W.Bush didn't get the deal he wanted he wanted our troops to be stationed in Iraq on permanent bases S. Korea, Japan and Germany. All George W. Bush got was a couple of shoes thrown at him and no he didn't bring our troops home.

        October 24, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  15. Dee

    President Obama has been so successful in his National Security Policies because Congress couldn't enable any of his policies. He went exactly by the Constitution/War Powers Act, he out smarted them.

    Remember he was villified and some wanted to impeach him for taking the actions he did. The GOP and blue dog Democrats are obstructionist this is why his jobs bill want pass. If they were out of the way he would have the same outcome for the economy .

    We need to vote them out so this country can move forward, CONGRATULATION MR. PRESIDENT

    October 23, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
  16. hottie7

    What is it going to take for this country to stop all the fighting and killing,because I think enough is enough there has been to many young mens and womens have lose there life in this country and it need to STOP.NO MORE WARS BRING EVERYONE HOME.And for the HATER ON THIS PRESIDENT SHAME ON YOU, Because from day one since he has been in office everything he has done good he has been HATED FOR IT AND THATS NOT RIGHT.Plus there has been so many people call him names and talks bad thing about where his family come from and it has made me sick to my stomach,know respect at all. THATS WHY BULLYING WILL NEVER STOP BECAUSE THE ADULT KEEPS IT GOING ALL THE TIME,DR.PHIL SAID IT BEST ON BULLYING IT START IN THE HOME AND AS OF NOW THE COUNTRY STILL HAVE ON EAR PLUGS.

    October 23, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  17. Liz Carter in Georgia

    SHUT UP HOWARD! YOU ARE A SICK, DEVIOUS, RACIST PUPPY! Had any whiteman been making all of these moves that President Obama has made, accomplished 'under his watch' all of the things he's accomplished, you loons would be jumping up and down, screaming yet again 'MISSION ACCOMPLISHED'! Stop the sarcastic drama! I LOVE YOU ALL!

    October 24, 2011 at 1:45 am |
  18. jsmoulder

    But yet our troops are still getting marching orders to go to Iraq next year, Sounds like a political lie by the current President to get reelected. And no the ones that are getting these orders are not security guards for an embassy, and there is more than a 200 getting these orders.

    October 24, 2011 at 8:16 am |
    • jean2009

      So far you haven't provided any proof.

      Even if troops were in the pipeline for 2012...prior to the President saying all troops will leave by December 31st. His saying it as Commander-in-Chief means all troops will be out by Dec. 31, 2011. We will have about 150-160 remaining for security. If that were a lie to get re-elected it would be more than a little premature since withdrawal by Dec. 31, 2011 is 11 months before the next election.

      Man ...who do you think gives the final orders on troop deployment and withdrawal?

      October 24, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
      • jsmoulder

        At this point their orders are still in place, as for proof that would cause a problem with OPSEC. You need to realize you don't know everything, I know I don't. You have shown your ignorance here.

        October 25, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  19. UGG Classic Tall donna 5815

    Is this the same DEA that's selling guns to the drug cartels along with the ATF. Oh..... no reason not to believe a guy paid to be a professional liar.

    October 28, 2011 at 5:28 am |
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