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

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs