Thursday, August 19, 2010

New York Minute: War is over: Last U.S. combat troops leave Iraq

The last American combat troops left Iraq on Wednesday, battling no more than civilian traffic on potentially hostile desert roads en route to safe haven in Kuwait.

The last of the 14,000-member 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division - about 4,000 strong - began crossing the border in the predawn hours, almost two weeks ahead of an Aug. 31 deadline for the end of "Operation Iraqi Freedom."

Some 50,000 U.S. troops will remain in the country until the end of 2011 to advise and train Iraqi forces and protect U.S. interests.

The Pentagon issued no confirmation that the move marked an early end to combat operations. But State Dept. spokesman P.J. Crowley said U.S. involvement would be less intrusive and more civilian focused.
"We are ending the war ... but we are not ending our work in Iraq," he told MSNBC. "We have a long-term commitment to Iraq."

Yesterday's departure quietly closed the active combat phase of a 7-1/2-year war that overthrew the regime of Saddam Hussein, forever defined the presidency of George W. Bush and left more than 4,400 American service members and thousands of Iraqis dead.

The last convoy, which began moving earlier in the week, rolled along a route carefully planned for nearly a month. Departing soldiers told MSNBC their biggest worry was Iraqi motorists who often sped past or cut in front of their slower moving vehicles.

Many of the troops arriving at the Khabari Crossing on the border said they were proud of their effort - but glad to be out of Iraq.

"I know that to my brothers in arms who fought and died, this day would probably mean a lot - to finally see us getting out of here," Spc. Luke Dill, 18, told The Associated Press

News courtesy of The New York Daily News

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