President Barack Obama announced today that all U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan by the end of this year and that the war in Iraq will then be over.
"After nine years, the war in Iraq will be over," he said. "The last American soldier will cross the border of Iraq with head held high."
Obama made the announcement after discussions with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Though combat forces will all leave the country, a very small numbers of soldiers could be expected to provide training for Iraqi forces and remain behind. Obama said this is just like the relationships the United States has with many other countries.
As troops leave, Obama said, the relationship will shift the a more traditional one.
"We'll build new ties of trade and commerce and culture," he said. "We'll insist that other nations respect Iraq's sovereignty."
Obama also pointed out that withdrawing troops from Iraq fulfilled one of his campaign promises. He noted that there were 180,000 soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan when he came into office and by year's end there will be half that.
The exact timeline for the withdrawal was not announced, but Obama did make one promise.
"I can say that our troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays."
That timetable is in keeping with his previous commitments to have all U.S. forces out of Iraq by this end of 2011.