The U.S. has decided not to go forth with plans that would extend its presence in Iraq, according to The Associated Press. The move will pull all but 160 troops out of Iraq by January, officially ending an 8-year involvement in the Iraq War by the U.S.
The decision comes on the eve of the Dec. 31 withdrawal date that was set in 2008. The U.S. would have began to negotiate a new security agreement otherwise. There are currently about 41,000 troops in Iraq, and the 160 troops that are to be kept in Iraq will be assigned to the U.S. Embassy for protection.
Washington has been talking to Iraqi officials in the last few months about possibly keeping a few thousand troops to help train Iraqi security forces, but no official deal has been made, according to the Pentagon.
When the 2008 deal that required all U.S. forces out of Iraq was made, many U.S. officials assumed that eventually another agreement would be created to extend U.S. occupation in Iraq. One main reason for withdrawal is because of the argument about legal protection of U.S. forces.
Iraqis are still furious over such incidents as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the killing of Iraqi civilians in the Anbar province. American forces do not want their troops being forced to defend themselves in an already-hostile courtroom. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has told the U.S. that he does not have the power needed to influence congress to pass any kind of immunity for U.S. forces.
The pullout is being considered a success for both the U.S. and Iraq. On the U.S. side, Barack Obama fulfills his campaign promise to end the war. For al-Maliki, he will have ended American occupation in Iraq.
More than 4400 American troops have lost their lives since the Iraq war began in March 2003.