Last US troops out of Iraq (Lead)

December 18th, 2011 - 8:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Kuwait City, Dec 18 (IANS) The last batch of US combat forces in Iraq crossed into neighbouring Kuwait Sunday, ending its nearly nine-year presence in the country.

A convoy of around 100 armoured vehicles carrying some 500 US troops will make a stopover in Kuwait, a close ally of the US, before flying home, reported Xinhua.

The exit marked the completion of the US military withdrawal from the country following the war that toppled then Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

The US launched the war March 18, 2003 against the Saddam regime accusing it of amassing weapons of mass destruction. It left 4,500 US soldiers and over 100,000 Iraqis dead.

The withdrawl came before the Dec 31 deadline set by US President Barack Obama to fulfill his election promise to pull all the American troops out of Iraq, as agreed in a security pact between the two countries in 2008.

Over 500 US camps dotted across Iraq were whittled down in the past months as soldiers packed up and headed for Kuwait after Obama announced in October that troops would come home as scheduled.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta Thursday attended a flag-lowering ceremony at a US military base west of Baghdad to mark the end of the war.

Though violence has subsided in the recent past, sporadic bombings remain a common occurrence across the country.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the Iraqi security forces were ready to protect the country after the US military left the country.

Obama told Maliki last week that Washington was willing to build a long-term and comprehensive partnership with Iraq in the post-war era.

The US still keeps 15,000 staff in its biggest overseas embassy in Baghdad after the withdrawal, in addition to the private firms providing a variety of security services.

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