The US military has officially ended its war in Iraq.
Nearly nine years after the invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein, the war has cost the US nearly 4,500 lives and countless billions of dollars. It has cost Iraq much more, and despite the heavy price tag, some say it is too soon to be sure it was worth it.
“We undertake this transition today reminding Iraq that it has in the United States a committed friend and a committed partner. We owe it to all of the lives that have been sacrificed in this war not to fail,” said Defence Secretary Leon Panetta.
In Fallujah, the centre of an al-Qaeda insurgency and some of the war’s bloodiest fighting, some among a crowd of thousands burned US flags. In Baghdad there was also despair about the outcome.
“What have they accomplished? Nothing. From the first day they arrived, they destroyed the country and ever since they have sown seeds of division and sectariarism,” said one young man.
The last 4,000 US troops will leave by the end of the year. The US military is saying it leaves behind a reformed, well-trained Iraqi army that can meet the challenges ahead. Just what those challenges may be are unclear.