US President Barack Obama announced on Friday the withdrawal of all American forces from Iraq by the end of 2011 with its combat mission coming to an end by August 31, 2010.
The much expected announcement was made by Obama at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and with this he has fulfilled one of his major promises he made to the people of the United States during his election campaign.
Obama told the cheering crowd, "Let me say this as plainly as I can, by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.
Outlining his plan, Obama said 50,000 of the 142,000 troops in Iraq will stay till the end of 2011, to advise Iraqi forces and protect US interests
"Iraq is not yet secure, and there will be difficult days ahead," he cautioned.
Obama had earlier promised that he would pull out all troops within 16 months of taking charge as the American President.
He has already ordered the deployment of up to 17,000 extra US troops to Afghanistan to meet 'urgent security needs'.
Obama informed the Marine Corps base in North Carolina that his national security team had drawn up a new strategy for Iraq.
"We have also taken into account the simple reality that America can no longer afford to see Iraq in isolation from other priorities: we face the challenge of refocusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan; of relieving the burden on our military; and of rebuilding our struggling economy -- and these are challenges that we will meet," he declared.
The Iraq strategy stressed on a political solution to the war and acknowledged that the most important decisions about its future must be made by Iraqis.
Obama also paid a heartfelt tribute to US forces serving in Iraq.
"Thanks to the sacrifices of those who have served, we have forged hard-earned progress, we are leaving Iraq to its people, and we have begun the work of ending the war," he stated.
In a direct address to Iraqis, Obama called their country a "great nation that had persevered with resilience through tyranny, terror and sectarian violence".
"So to the Iraqi people: let me be clear about America's intentions. The United States pursues no claim on your territory or your resources. We respect your sovereignty and the tremendous sacrifices you have made for your country. We seek a full transition to Iraqi responsibility for the security of your country," he said.
Iraq's future was inseparable from the Middle East, Obama said, adding that "the US will now pursue principled and sustained engagement with all of the nations in the region, and that will include Iran and Syria".
Many Democrats reacted cautiously to Obama's pull-out plan.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hailed it as 'sound and measured' but cautioned that the US "must keep in Iraq only those forces necessary for the security of our remaining troops and the Iraqi people".
The plan was 'good news; said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but called for clearly-defined missions for the remaining troops.