Washington America’s long and deeply unpopular war in Iraq will be over by year’s end and all U.S. troops ‘‘will definitely be home for the holidays,” President Barack Obama declared Friday.
Stretching more than eight years, the war cost the United States heavily: More than 4,400 members of the military have been killed, and more than 32,000 have been wounded.
The final exit date was sealed after months of intensive talks between Washington and Baghdad failed to reach agreement on conditions for leaving several thousand U.S. troops in Iraq as a training force. The U.S. also had been interested in keeping a small force to help the Iraqis deal with possible Iranian meddling.
The task now is to speed the pullout of the remaining U.S. forces, nearly 40,000 in number.
Staying behind in Iraq, where bombings and other violence still occur, will be some 150-200 U.S. military troops as part of embassy security, the defense attaché’s office and the office of security cooperation. That’s common practice but still a danger to American forces.
Obama, an opponent of the war since before he took office, nevertheless praised the efforts of U.S. troops in Iraq. He said American soldiers would leave “with their heads held high, proud of their success.”
For Obama, Friday’s announcement capped a remarkable two days of national security successes, though there’s no indication how much they will matter to re-election voters more concerned with economic woes at home.
On Thursday, the president heralded the death of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and a day later the end to one of the most divisive conflicts in U.S. history.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the U.S. more than $1.3 trillion.
Obama did not declare victory.