WASHINGTON - All American troops serving in Iraq will return home by the end of this year, President Barack Obama announced Friday afternoon.
Obama said that ensuring the success of a complete troop drawdown in Uraq has been one of his top national security priorities.
His goal was to see Iraq to the point where its secure and independent. Friday, Obama assured that nation has reached that point.
"Today I can say that our troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays," he said.
The president congratulated Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Naliki on his country's success. The prime minister then thanked the United States for its sacrifices that have helped put Iraq on the road to democracy.
"There will be some difficult days ahead for Iraq and the United States will continue to have an interest in an Iraq that is stable, secure and self reliant," Obama said.
"Just as Iraqis have persevered through war, I'm confident that they can build a future worthy of their history as the cradle of civilization," he added.
Still, some Republicans warn a compete withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq could destabilize the country and lead to sectarian violence.
"Ii think there's a greater risk of renewed violence, of continued Iranian penetration into Iraq that's already happening in southern Iraq," said GOP Sen. John McCain.
Members of the U.S. military will spend the next few months packing up equipment to ship home.
Officials said they're confident Iraq's security forces have the training and the resources they need to protect their interests.
They added that more trust in Iraq's political system has led to less sectarian violence.
Next year will begin with what President Obama called a "normal" relationship with Iraq -- one that's lead by American diplomats and civilian advisors.
The military will continue to train Iraqi security forces on new weapons they've purchased.
The U.S. will also maintain an embassy and two consulates in Iraq.
The cost of more than eight years of war in Iraq has taken a toll on the country.
Battles have taken the lives of 4,400 U.S. military service members. Another 32,000 were wounded.
The war has cost U.S. taxpayers $704 billion, as of July.
--Published Oct. 21, 2011.