The 700 troops from the 3rd Infantry Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion who were slated to deploy to Iraq this fall no longer will do so, according to a Friday announcement released shortly after President Barack Obama declared an end to the Iraq war.
Obama’s statement put an end to months of wrangling over whether the United States would maintain a force in the country beyond this year, though he never mentioned negotiations with Iraq over whether to maintain several thousand U.S. forces in Iraq for training and defense against Iran or other outside forces.
Before the announcement Friday, 3rd ID Commander Maj. Gen. Robert “Abe” Abrams spoke to a crowd of about 275 retirees during the Retiree Appreciation Day and addressed how the negotiations affect 3rd ID troops.
“There’s clearly a drawdown going on in Iraq,” he said, explaining that the troops were supposed to deploy to command training of the Iraqi army if an agreement was met.
“That, I’m fairly certain, is not going to happen now because the governments of our two countries were not able to come to an agreement because of the privileges and immunities for our soldiers post-2011,” Abrams said.
Throughout the discussions, Iraqis refused to give U.S. troops immunity from prosecution, and the Americans refused to stay without that guarantee. Moreover, Iraq’s leadership has been split on whether it wanted American forces to stay.
A Fort Stewart advisory in May announced news of the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion deployment, which was not scheduled to include any of the 3rd ID’s larger combat brigades. It was not specific about how the mission would have meshed with a Dec. 31 deadline.
While Obama spoke to the nation about a promise kept, a new day for Iraq and a focus on building up the economy at home, Abrams spoke to the retirees about the dedication of the 3rd ID to aid with Operation New Dawn.
Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion and all of the division’s brigades have been deployed to Iraq four times on rotation with 15- and 12-month deployments since 2002, Abrams said.
“They’ve done some incredible heaving lifting on behalf of our country,” he said. “The stress is real, and we all recognize it’s real, and we’ve got to address it.”
More than 4,400 American military members have been killed since the United States and its allies invaded Iraq in March 2003.
Abrams emphasized that the 3rd ID is still prepared to answer the nation’s call whenever and wherever needed.
Elements of the 3rd ID currently are assigned to the Global Response Force, a full-spectrum operations force that is on call 24 hours a day and able to deploy anywhere in the world within 18 hours, Abrams said.
“The 3rd Infantry Division remains committed to the defense of our nation across the full spectrum of operations from high-intensity combat to peace enforcement to any range of military support to the homeland,” Abrams said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.