Entries in War in Iraq (4)


Last US Troops Leave Iraq, Ending Bloodiest US War Since Vietnam

Khalid Mohammed-Pool/Getty Images(BAGHDAD, Iraq) -- In the end, there was no decisive battle, no peace treaty. The United States' bloodiest conflict since Vietnam ended with a border crossing.

After nearly nine years, $800 billion, 4,500 American dead and an estimated 100,000 Iraqi dead, the war in Iraq is over—at least for the U.S. military. Shortly after 7:30 a.m. local time, the last U.S. combat troops crossed from Iraq into Kuwait along the same roads that the U.S. used to invade the country in 2003.

One and a half million American men and women served in Iraq since that first force arrived, back when the campaign was expected to be quick and greeted warmly. But even today, the legacy of the war is in many ways still unknown: The U.S. is leaving an Iraq where sectarian, regional, and political groups still show willingness—and sometimes a desire—to resolve their differences violently, and where many of the vital issues created by the invasion are still unsettled.

Saddam Hussein is gone and the country and its armed forces have improved in many ways since the peak of the war, in 2007. But Iraq is still struggling to shake off the weighty baggage of decades of dictatorship and conflict. Many Iraqis are hopeful for the future, but just as many are anxious, as their devastated country faces a power vacuum and an expected explosion of oil wealth and construction projects.

For the U.S., a war launched in the aftermath of 9/11 became one of its most controversial. Repeated and extended deployments strained the military and the country's budget.

More recently, because of the costs and struggles of the Iraq war, the U.S. has changed how it intervenes overseas, shunning large-scale invasions for relatively small interventions that aid local insurgent groups.

Still, today the final commander in Iraq said the war was worth it.

"If you're a loved one of someone that was killed in action or seriously wounded in action, there are no words that can make you ever believe that this was worth it," Gen. Lloyd Austin said Saturday in Camp Adder, from where the final combat troops left.

"However, if you really think about what's happened here—we removed a brutal dictator that killed, tortured hundreds of thousands of people over time and it provided the Iraqi people opportunities that they have not seen in their lifetime," Austin said. "If you consider the fact that we have a young democracy in a very critical region, a region that's critical to the United States of America—yes, it was worth it."

Inside the seat of power in Baghdad—the same heavily fortified Green Zone that the U.S. made its headquarters after the invasion—the government expressed thanks for the sacrifices of U.S. troops. But it is struggling with sectarian tensions and a tenuous power-sharing agreement that reflect the fragility of the political process here.

As the U.S. departed Iraq, a line of more than 100 U.S. vehicles, and nearly 500 soldiers headed out to make history.

Some of the soldiers were on their fourth deployments to Iraq, but many more on their first.

A significant number of the soldiers were just children when the war began.

As the troops crossed the border, they were greeted with the rising sun in Kuwait.

"I'm very proud of what we've been able to accomplish since I've been here, and my time here, my first deployment, it's nice to be going home, especially before the holidays," said Specialist David Trudeau.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Troops Leave Iraq: Rocky Road Ahead for Both Countries

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Eight years and four tours of duty later, Army Sgt. First Class Larry D. Green Jr. left Iraq for the final time this week.

"The joy is knowing this is a one-way trip," Green, 33, said.  "It feels good to be out. ... As we crossed the border I smiled to myself.  I said, 'I made it through to the end.'"

Nine years after a contentious, multi-billion dollar war, the United States is closing its bases in Iraq and bringing back combat troops.  The U.S. withdrawal has caused rejoicing in both countries, even though the United States and Iraq face a new set of challenges as they work to figure out a way forward.

"After nearly nine years, our war in Iraq ends this month. ... A new day is upon us," President Obama said after his meeting Monday with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who was in Washington, D.C., to discuss the two countries' future relationship.

Calling for the beginning of a "normal relationship" between the two countries, Obama hailed the beginning of a new chapter and reaffirmed the United States' "strong presence in the Middle East."

But the new chapter for both countries is filled with enormous challenges.  Iraq continues to be rocked by Sunni-Shia, Kurdish-Iraqi violence and the absence of a strong, stable regime.  For the United States, the growing influence of Iran on one border and Syria on the other is a continuing cause of concern.

It will be a difficult road ahead, some experts say, given the lack of direction on both fronts.

"It's obvious that we have to redefine our position in the rest of the Gulf and the region, but no one at present can figure out what our role should be," said Tony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  "The concept of having Iraq as a friendly, strong and democratic state is not a strategy.  It's a goal.  It's a goal which we have no plan as yet to meet."

The Iraq war has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $700 billion, with the monthly cost touching $4 billion.  Nearly 4,500 Americans and 104,000 Iraqis have died since the war began, and more than 32,000 Americans have been wounded.

There are 5,500 U.S. troops in Iraq today, down from the peak of 170,000 in 2007.

In all likelihood, the United States will maintain a strong civil presence in the country and troops in neighboring countries such as Kuwait.  But the direction of Iraq and the U.S. relationship remain hazy and neither of the two leaders on Monday mentioned any specific steps they will take, except to say that there will be a "comprehensive partnership."

Maliki's "visit is little more than an exercise in political symbolism.  It is celebrating a victory that really doesn't exist yet.  While the war in the narrowest sense may be over, there is no end game here,"Cordesman said.  "Given all the costs and the blood and the money, it's difficult to describe this as any kind of victory, particularly because when we went in, we destroyed Iraq's conventional forces, and they are years away from any meaningful recovery."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


June: Deadliest Month for Iraq-Based US Troops in 2 Years

Antenna Audio, Inc./Getty Images(BAGHDAD) -- Three U.S. service members were killed and seven wounded Wednesday in a rocket attack on a base in southern Iraq shared by U.S. and Iraqi troops.

The names of the three service members who were killed have not yet been released.

The death of these soldiers brings the number of U.S. fatalities to fifteen for the month of June -- making this month the deadliest month in Iraq in exactly two years.

In June, 2009 there were 15 U.S. deaths in Iraq.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Violent Deaths in Iraq Reach 'Impassable Minimum'

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(IRAQ) – The number of civilian lives claimed by violence in Iraq has reached its lowest level since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, according to a group that tracks casualties.

The annual report from Iraq Body Count (IBC) shows that violent deaths in the country fell under 4,000 this year, down 15 percent from 2009. Although lower, the IBC calls the 2010 figure an “impassable minimum” that is likely to remain constant in the coming years.

According to the report, the number represents nearly two explosions a day, 66 percent of which were caused by insurgent bomb attacks.

"After nearly eight years, the security crisis in Iraq remains notable for its sheer relentlessness: 2010 averaged nearly two explosions a day by non-state forces that caused civilian deaths," the IBC said. "As well as occurring almost daily, these lethal explosions can happen almost anywhere, with 2010's attacks occurring in 13 of Iraq's 18 administrative regions."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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