Final brigade of US combat troops leaves IraqAugust 19th, 2010 - 8:13 am ICT by IANS
Washington, Aug 19 (DPA) The final US combat troops departed Iraq early Thursday, ahead of schedule to complete a key phase of President Barack Obama’s plan to withdraw, US media reported.
An NBC television correspondent embedded with the US Army’s 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, reported the troops began crossing the border into Kuwait at 1:30 a.m. (2230 GMT Wednesday).
The US military kept the departure under wraps until early Thursday. A Washington Post reporter present at the brigade’s departure reported the military required the accompanying media to maintain secrecy until the brigade reached Kuwait.
The brigade’s departure came more than seven years after the March 2003 invasion to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime. The most recent Pentagon figures showed 4,415 US soldiers have died in the conflict.
The 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, is based at Fort Lewis, Washington. A spokeswoman at the base could not confirm it had left Iraq but said plans were underway to have the troops back home by mid-September.
Obama had set an Aug 31 deadline for withdrawing US combat troops from Iraq, which would reduce the American presence to about 50,000 responsible for training Iraqi security forces and assisting in counter-terrorism operations.
US commanders opted to drive the combat troops out over a 580-km journey instead of flying them out to keep the last combat force in country several weeks longer, the Post reported.
All US forces are scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of 2011 as Obama shifts the focus to the war in Afghanistan. During his presidential campaign, Obama pledged to end the US role in Iraq, a war he opposed and said was draining resources from the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The end of the US combat role marks a major shift for the Iraqi government, which has been taking on a greater responsibility for security operations.
The top US commander in Iraq, Ray Odierno, had said that a recent uptick of violence and the political stalemate in the Iraqi government following March parliamentary elections would not delay ending the combat role.
A recent upsurge of violence includes more than 80 people just in the last week, including 58 killed Tuesday when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside an Iraqi army recruiting centre in Baghdad. US officials say Al Qaeda in Iraq is severely weakened and the recent spate of attacks is a desperate attempt to show it has a presence in the country.
Tens of thousands of US soldiers have been leaving Iraq this year and hundreds of bases were transferred to the Iraqi government. The US military has expressed confidence that the Iraqis are capable of assuming security responsibilities.
US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley told MSNBC that even as the combat mission comes to a close, the United States will have a long-term commitment to Iraq as the missions from a military led campaign to a diplomatic one.
“We are ending the war … but we are not ending our work in Iraq. We have a long-term commitment to Iraq,” he told MSNBC.
- American Combat Operations In Iraq Ends As U.S. Troops Head Home - Aug 20, 2010
- Last American Combat Troops Withdrawn From Iraq - Aug 19, 2010
- Gen. Odierno says US troops will return only if Iraq security force "completely fails" - Aug 23, 2010
- Last US troops out of Iraq (Lead) - Dec 18, 2011
- Obama to mark Iraq transition with major address - Aug 31, 2010
- Biden arrives in Iraq to mark combat end - Aug 31, 2010
- US likely to keep 10,000 troops in Iraq - Apr 22, 2011
- All US troops out of Iraq - Dec 18, 2011
- 'Only 17,000 US soldiers left in Iraq' - Nov 25, 2011
- Obama declares end to US combat operations in Iraq - Sep 01, 2010
- Obama says combat operations in Iraq coming to a close - Aug 29, 2010
- US troops to pull out from Iraq by 2011 end - Oct 22, 2011
- U.S. officially ends nearly nine-year-long war in Iraq - Dec 15, 2011
- Iran still supports attacks in Iraq: US general - Jul 01, 2009
- Iraq combat exit no reason for celebration: Obama - Sep 01, 2010
Tags: 4th stryker brigade, american presence, barack obama, brigade combat team, combat force, combat role, combat troops, counter terrorism, crossing the border, fort lewis washington, infantry division, nbc television, ray odierno, recen, security operations, stryker brigade combat, stryker brigade combat team, training iraqi security forces, us role in iraq, war in afghanistan