War In Iraq Declared Over
Panetta thanked the members of the military at Baghdad's international airport, saying that progress has been made, but there are still steps to be taken by the country itself.
From the New York Times:
“Let me be clear: Iraq will be tested in the days ahead — by terrorism, and by those who would seek to divide, by economic and social issues, by the demands of democracy itself,” Mr. Panetta said. “Challenges remain, but the U.S. will be there to stand by the Iraqi people as they navigate those challenges to build a stronger and more prosperous nation.”
There are still approximately 4,000 troops in Iraq and two active bases, both of which will be closed by the end of the year. Under the agreement with the current Iraqi government, less than a thousand U.S. service personnel will remain, a stark contrast to the more than 165,000 troops on the ground at the height of the war in 2007.
“After a lot of blood spilled by Iraqis and Americans, the mission of an Iraq that could govern and secure itself has become real,” Panetta said. “To be sure, the cost was high — in blood and treasure for the United States, and for the Iraqi people. Those lives were not lost in vain.”
But perhaps what drew the most attention today was the lack of pomp and circumstance surrounding the withdrawal of troops. What was a large-scale plan of attack in 2003 drew to a close during a quiet ceremony of a few hundred.
From the Washington Post:
The white flag of United States Force-Iraq was carefully folded and put away, and Panetta took the podium.
“No words, no ceremony can provide full tribute to the sacrifices which have brought this day to pass,” the defense secretary said. “I’m reminded of what President Lincoln said in Gettysburg, about a different war, in a different time. His words echo through the years as we pay tribute to the fallen in this war: ‘The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.’ ”
In his speech, Panetta singled out U.S. Ambassador James Jeffrey and Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, for overseeing the rapid withdrawal of 50,000 troops in recent months and the closure of dozens of bases.
But he paid special tribute to the more than 1 million U.S. troops who have served war duty in Iraq since 2003, including about 4,487 who were killed and some 30,000 who were wounded.
“You have done everything your nation has asked you to do and more,” he said. “You came to this ‘Land Between the Rivers’ again and again and again.You did not know whether you’d return to your loved ones.
“You will leave with great pride, lasting pride, secure in knowing that your sacrifice has helped the Iraqi people begin a new chapter in history free from tyranny and full of hope for prosperity and peace.”
According to the Pentagon, as of last Friday the official death toll from the war in Iraq was 4,487, with another more than 32,000 Americans wounded.
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