Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, said Saturday that negotiations breaking down over whether U.S. soldiers would be protected from legal action led to American military forces withdrawing by the end of this year.
“When the Americans asked for immunity, the Iraqi side answered that it was not possible,” al-Maliki told reporters in Baghdad, according to the Associated Press. “The discussions over the number of trainers and the place of training stopped. Now that the issue of immunity was decided and that no immunity to be given, the withdrawal has started.”
On Friday, President Obama announced that all U.S. military forces will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2011. The president said that he had spoken to al-Maliki before the announcement and that they were “in full agreement” in how to move forward.
“I reaffirmed that the United States keeps its commitments. He spoke of the determination of the Iraqi people to forge their own future. We are in full agreement about how to move forward,” Obama told reporters.
After the president’s announcement, White House aides briefed reporters and said immunity for U.S. soldiers from prosecutions and lawsuits was under discussion.
“So we talked about immunities, there’s no question about that. But the decision — and the President will insist on our troops having what they need no matter where they are. But the bottom line is, the decision that you heard the President talk about today is reflective of his view and the Prime Minister’s view of the kind of relationship that we want to have going forward,” said Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough on Friday.
Under an agreement reached between the Bush administration and the Iraqi government in 2008, all U.S. troops must be out of the country by the end of 2011. Close to 40,000 troops remain in the country, according to the AP.
Violence still persists in Iraq though, which led to a push by the Obama administration to keep U.S. troops in the country past this year’s deadline to ensure its security. Negotiations went on for months this year but the two countries failed to reach a new agreement.