News / Middle East

US Ends Military Mission in Iraq

The US flag, Iraq flag, and the US Forces Iraq colors are seen before they are carried in during ceremonies marking the end of US military mission, December 15, 2011 in Baghdad, Iraq.
The US flag, Iraq flag, and the US Forces Iraq colors are seen before they are carried in during ceremonies marking the end of US military mission, December 15, 2011 in Baghdad, Iraq.
Luis Ramirez

The U.S. military has formally ended its mission in Iraq.  At a ceremony in Baghdad, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta watched as American troops lowered their command's flag, marking an end to the nearly nine-year war that drove out Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein.  

It was a solemn, low-key ceremony outside a terminal at Baghdad's airport in a fortified area surrounded by concrete barriers.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta flew in briefly for the ceremony, which was held in front of scores of U.S. troops and foreign media. There was a seat reserved for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. But he did not attend.

Soldiers took the flag representing the U.S. military command in Iraq, rolled it around the staff, and slipped into a camouflage cloth case. The gesture marked the symbolic end of Operation New Dawn and the war that lasted nearly nine years, killed more than 4,000 Americans along with tens of thousands of Iraqis, and unleashed sectarian violence in the country.

Panetta called’s Thursday’s ceremony a historic occasion. "To be sure, the cost was high, in blood and treasure for the United States and for the Iraqi people. Those lives were not lost in vain," he said. "They gave birth to an independent, free and sovereign Iraq."

People chant anti-US slogans during a demonstration in Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq, December 14, 2011. (AP photo)
People chant anti-US slogans during a demonstration in Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq, December 14, 2011.

What U.S. forces leave behind is a stability that is fragile at best. Violence has diminished in the past few years, but continues to flare, with attacks carried out by insurgents, some of them operating with Iranian support.

Some U.S. officials had wanted to keep several thousand troops in place beyond a December 31 deadline that Washington and Baghdad set three years ago. However, President Obama announced a total withdrawal in October after his administration failed to reach an agreement for Iraq to provide immunity to U.S. troops.

US Ends Military Mission in Iraq
US Ends Military Mission in Iraq

At the time of the announcement, there were about 50,000 troops in Iraq. That number is down to a few thousand as the last convoys of trucks make their way south to bases in Kuwait.

In his remarks Thursday, Panetta said Washington will remain engaged in Iraq.

“Let me be clear," said Panetta. "Iraq will be tested in the days ahead by terrorism and by those who would seek to divide it; by economic and social issues; by the demands of democracy itself. Challenges remain, but the U.S. will stand by the Iraqi people as they navigate those challenges to build a stronger and more prosperous nation.”

The American embassy in Baghdad houses the United States’ largest diplomatic presence in the world, and a small number of troops will remain, mainly to protect diplomats.

Some Iraqis this week celebrated the departure of U.S. troops, while others expressed concern that the country could again slip into chaos and violence.

Whatever the outcome, the future of Iraq remains in the hands of its people.


Timeline of the Iraq Invasion

Loading timeline...
Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More