The chief effect of Obama's announcement was to end any chance of a substantial U.S. troop presence in Iraq after the end of the year, a disappointment for U.S. defense officials. It was an acknowledgment that Iraqis had refused to agree to a key U.S. condition for leaving American troops behind: immunity from Iraqi law.
Instead, the President's decision left open the possibility of ties with Baghdad that he characterized as typical relations between the U.S. and the governments and militaries of other countries.
"I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year," Obama said, referring to his campaign pledge in 2008. "After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over."
Obama acknowledged the potential for uncertainty, saying there would be "some difficult days ahead for Iraq." The Iraqi military, built as a counterinsurgency force, still isn't considered capable of defending the nation's borders or airspace. Sectarian divisions in Iraq could erupt at any time.
Conservative critics said the troop pullout could leave the U.S. in a weaker position against Iran.
Military officials privately cautioned that Iran would be gravely miscalculating if it doubted the U.S. commitment to the Middle East or the strength of the American position. Aside from the 45,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq, there are about 50,000 U.S. forces in other locations through the region.
White House officials said Friday the U.S. wouldn't ask Iraq to tap its oil resources to pay some of the U.S. war costs, as some in Congress have demanded.
The U.S. will maintain between 4,000 and 5,000 security contractors in Iraq to protect American diplomats, White House officials said.
Several hundred U.S. military personnel may remain with the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq. Denis McDonough, a Deputy National Security Adviser, said negotiations are continuing over a strategic agreement that could provide for the presence of the U.S. personnel.
Source: Dow Jones Newswires; The Wall Street Journal