On Friday, October 21st, President Obama formally announced that all of the American troops in Iraq would be returning home before the end of the year. President Obama was a critic of the war before its inception. He is now completing his campaign promises to bring the conflict to a close. About 40,000 soldiers will return home before the end of December 2011. This will bring an end to a conflict that lasted over eight years, resulted in thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths, and forced millions of Iraqis to become refugees or internally displaced in their own country.
Some in the US Department of Defense unsuccessfully pushed Prime Minister Al Maliki to allow 3,000 US troops to remain in the country for added security and training. However, in the shift from a military to a diplomatic and development presence, the United States will continue to have 160 soldiers to guard the American embassy. In addition, a group of almost 5,000 private State Department security contractors and a significant C.I.A. presence will also remain.
NETWORK is glad that the military presence in Iraq is finally ending. NETWORK opposed the original invasion and then worked with the Iraqi people to try to build a stable Iraq out of the post-invasion chaos. We developed our position in consultation with Iraqis and have had our policy rooted in their experience. We lament the cost of the war to the Iraqi people as well as the cost of over 4,000 American lives and $700 billion. 
Our Iraqi contacts tell us that they are ready to have the US troops leave and to work together to build their country. NETWORK looks forward to supporting the Iraqi people to do just that: to rebuild their infrastructure, including schools, technology, a job market and a health care system. Now is the time for effective peace building and development in this country that has suffered so much.