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US ends combat operations in Iraq but plans to double Civilian Force

Thursday, August 19, 2010 12:07:40 PM, Agencies

Operation Iraqi Freedom' has cost more than $900 billion and seen 4,415 US troops die.

(Photo: Reuters)

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Time to nail the Iraq lie

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.


With the 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.


The withdrawal 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 this year.

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 situation.


After becoming 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 die.

That figure has been dwarfed by the number of Iraqi civilians killed, estimated at more than 100,000, according to the Iraq Body Count website.

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.





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