After nine years of engagement, the United States has officially ended its war in Iraq.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the end of the war in a ceremony held today in Baghdad. Troops lowered the flag of the U.S. Forces-Iraq and wrapped it in camouflage as the defense secretary told troops that their efforts aided in casting “tyranny aside.”
“You will leave with great pride – lasting pride,” Panetta told the remaining troops at the Baghdad military base. All U.S. troops are set to leave Iraq by the Dec. 31 deadline.
Yesterday, President Barack Obama held a welcome back ceremony at the Fort Bragg military base in North Carolina. Obama thanked troops for their commitment to the war efforts in Iraq and vowed to offer continued support to veterans and their families.
“As your commander in chief, and on behalf of a grateful nation, I’m proud to finally say these two words, I know your families agree: Welcome home,” Obama told the hundreds of troops at the military base.
Obama discussed the tragedy and loss that accompanied the nine-year war effort, but congratulated the troops for the job they did in Iraq.
“For all of the challenges that our nation faces, you remind us that there’s nothing that we Americans can’t do when we stick together,” said the president. “It’s why the United States military is the most respected institution in our land. It’s why you, the 9/11 generation, have earned your place in history,” he added.
The U.S. went into the country under the pretense that former leader Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction. The weapons were never discovered, but the U.S. has built its largest embassy in the world in Iraq. Military bases in the country will remain intact despite troops leaving the country.
Many political analysts suggest that U.S. influence in the country will not subside. There remains the worry that U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq could plunge the country into civil war.
The war Iraq has costed the U.S. 4,500 American lives and left 32,000 Americans wounded. Fiscally, the war effort totaled over $800 billion.
Although troops will be out of the country by the end of this year, the Obama administration has vowed to continue to offer civilian assistance to Iraq.
To watch a video of today’s victory ceremony Baghdad featuring U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, please see below: