Obama says U.S. troops out of Iraq by year's end
In recent months, Washington had been discussing with Iraqi leaders the possibility of several thousand American troops remaining to continue training Iraqi security forces.
Throughout the discussions, Iraqi leaders refused to give U.S. troops immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts, and the Americans refused to stay without that guarantee.
Moreover, Iraq's leadership has been split on whether it wanted American forces to stay.
When the 2008 agreement requiring all U.S. forces to leave Iraq was passed, many U.S. officials assumed it would inevitably be renegotiated so that Americans could stay longer.
The U.S. said repeatedly this year it would entertain an offer from the Iraqis to have a small force stay behind, and the Iraqis said they would like American military help. But as the year wore on and the number of American troops that Washington was suggesting could stay behind dropped, it became increasingly clear that a U.S. troop presence was not a sure thing.
The issue of legal protection for the Americans was the deal-breaker.
Pulling troops out by the end of this year allows both al-Maliki and Obama to claim victory.
Obama kept a campaign promise to end the war, and al-Maliki will have ended the American presence and restored Iraqi sovereignty.
The president used the war statement to once again turn attention back to the economy, the domestic concern that is expected to determine whether he wins re-election next year.
"After a decade of war the nation that we need to build and the nation that we will build is our own, an America that sees its economic strength restored just as we've restored our leadership around the globe."
Would you like to contribute to this story? Join the discussion.