Jane Cowan reported this story October22,2011  http://www.abc.net.au


ELIZABETH JACKSON: The US president Barack Obama has announced all American troops will be out of the country in Iraq by the end of the year.

The withdrawal marks the end of the almost nine-year Iraq War.

Our North America correspondent Jane Cowan joins us on the line now from Washington.

Jane, what exactly did the president have to say?

JANE COWAN: Well Elizabeth, Barack Obama says that over the next two months now all the remaining 39,000 troops in Iraq will get out, which means the last soldier will leave by the end of the year and that ends this nearly nine-year military engagement, one that obviously has cost the lives of a lot of US troops, 4,500 almost, and cost America more than $1 trillion, not to mention that the way that it has divided the American public.

But Barack Obama really emphasised today that the US will leave Iraq with its head held high.

Let’s have a listen to what he said.

BARACK OBAMA: 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 though in this war. I’ll join the American people in paying tribute to the more than 1 million Americans who have served in Iraq.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: And that was the American president Barack Obama speaking not that long ago.

Jane, this wasn’t unexpected was it?

JANE COWAN: No. Barack Obama was an opponent of this war from the very beginning. He accelerated America’s exit. But this really has allowed the president to keep a campaign promise now he made to end the war.

Remember the US had already agreed to get out of Iraq by the end of this year, but there had been some discussion about leaving perhaps between 3,000 to 5,000 troops there as trainers and to counter the influence of Iran. And some members of Congress here were even advocating keep a reduced fighting force in the country as well.

But Pentagon lawyers had insisted that the Iraqi Parliament grant those troops immunity from any kind of legal prosecution and it was on that point that the two countries were unable to reach agreement and that plan eventually fell apart.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: So will there be any continued American presence now in Iraq at all?

JANE COWAN: Well the president has appeared to leave open the possibility of having at least a further negotiations on the questions of military trainers.

He said that he will now continue discussions with the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki on how American might help train and equip the Iraqi forces. But he’s really described it as being in a similar way to how American does for other countries.

There will of course be the standard US Marine security detail attached to the US Embassy in Baghdad, along with thousands of contractors who will provide security for diplomats there and at US consulates in two other Iraqi cities.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Jane, thank you. That’s our US correspondent Jane Cowan joining us from Washington.