Even as the last
brigade of U.S. combat troops began to leave Iraq Thursday, the
Obama administration planned to double the number of private
security guards it has in the country to fill the void.
The brigade left
the country in the early hours of Thursday morning, two weeks before
an August 31 deadline for the end of 'Operation Iraqi Freedom'
pledged by Barack Obama upon taking office.
withdrawal of the last US combat brigade from Iraq, the combat
operations has come to an end in a war that has lasted more than
seven years and claimed the lives of more than 4,000 US troops.
has also brought an end to a controversial and bloody operation that
began with the American 'shock and awe' bombing campaign of Baghdad
in March 2003, and saw the US military endure some of the heaviest
fighting it had seen for a generation.
US President Barack Obama had imposed an end-of-the-month deadline
for the pullout -- and 'The Last Patrol', which included members of
the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, crossed the border into Kuwait
in the early hours of Thursday local time.
Obama called it a milestone in the war, but the widely-publicized
exit of the Stryker soldiers Thursday does not entirely end the
fighting mission as there are still 2,600 combat troops left in
Iraq. They are expected to pull out in the next few days.
About 50,000 troops will stay in Iraq until the end of next year to
train Iraqi forces and after August 31 the mission in Iraq will no
longer be known as 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' and will instead be
known as 'Operation New Dawn'.
Obama had made ending the Iraq war a central policy of his
presidential campaign, and after taking office he immediately
announced plans to bring combat troops home by the end of August
He inherited around 144,000 troops in Iraq, 30,000 fewer than the
peak levels of 2007, when the Bush administration ordered a
so-called surge in an effort to improve Iraq's atrocious security
president, Obama immediately set about transferring responsibility
for security from the US military to Iraqi forces, gradually pulling
US troops out of the country.
Generals approved the final tranche of the drawdown in May this
year, despite a rise in violence following inconclusive
parliamentary elections in March.
The war, which began when a US-led coalition invaded Iraq in 2003
and overthrew the government of Saddam Hussein, has proven costly to
America both in terms of dollars and human life. 'Operation Iraqi
Freedom' has cost more than $900 billion and seen 4,415 US troops
That figure has been dwarfed by the number of Iraqi civilians
killed, estimated at more than 100,000, according to the Iraq Body
At the height of the violence in 2006, Iraq was brought to the brink
of all-out civil war between the Sunni and Shia communities, with
bombings and sectarian murders becoming a deadly part of day-to-day
life in many parts of the country.
In 2007, President Bush ordered a controversial surge of more than
30,000 combat troops in an effort to improve the situation.