The last convoy of American soldiers has rolled out of Iraq, completing the US military withdrawal and fulfilling President Obama's campaign promise to get America out of a war he inherited from his predecessor.
America's military mission in Iraq has ended after almost nine years
The last convoy of US soldiers crossed the border from Iraq into Kuwait in the early hours on Sunday, bringing to a close the American military involvement in Iraq after almost nine years. Just 157 soldiers stayed behind to train Iraqi forces, while a group of Marines will remain to secure America's diplomatic mission.
A column of around 100 military vehicles carrying some 500 troops traveled five hours along a mostly-deserted route across the southern Iraq desert after handing over the Imam Ali base outside the city of Nasiriyah. US forces paid Shiite tribal sheikhs to regularly inspect stretches of the highway to reduce the risk of roadside bombings or other attacks on the last troops.
US soldiers and Iraqis pulled down this statue of Saddam Hussein within a month of the invasion
The US-led invasion in March 2003 toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein and unleashed brutal sectarian killing. The war left nearly 4,500 American soldiers and, according to British NGO Iraq Body Count, more than 100,000 Iraqis dead. At the height of the war there were more than 170,000 US troops in Iraq, stationed at more than 500 bases.
The military pullout timetable was agreed in 2008 by Baghdad and Washington and fulfills an election campaign promise by US President Barack Obama to bring troops home from a conflict inherited from his predecessor, George W. Bush. It's been America's least popular war since Vietnam and tainted America's standing worldwide.
The American troops are leaving an Iraq that is grappling with renewed political deadlock and uncertainty over the strength of the country's political structures. On Saturday the Iraqiya bloc, which came out ahead in March 2010 polls with support from the minority Sunnis, said it was boycotting parliament to protest the centralization of decision-making by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite. The bloc controls nine ministries and has not yet pulled out of Iraq's national unity government.
Author: Holly Fox (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Ben Knight