The war in Iraq came to a formal end today. The Washington Post has details on the ceremony:
BAGHDAD — Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta paid solemn tribute on Thursday to an “independent, free and sovereign Iraq” and declared the official end to the Iraq war, formally wrapping up the U.S. military’s mission in the country after almost nine years.
“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 at a ceremony held under tight security at Baghdad’s international airport. “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.”
The 1:15 p.m. ceremony (5:15 a.m. in Washington) effectively ended the war two weeks earlier than was necessary under the terms of the security agreement signed by the U.S. and Iraqi governments in 2008, which stipulated that the troops must be gone by Dec. 31.
The fact is, the President has consistently called for a complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq at the earliest possible date, and he has never deviated from this position as President. Indeed, he has always reaffirmed his campaign promise to end the war in Iraq and withdraw all of our troops. So perhaps it should not have come as a surprise when the President announced in October that he was ending negotiations with the Iraqi government over whether to maintain a small number of U.S. troops in Iraq beyond this year to continue assisting Iraq’s security forces.
I continue to believe that this decision represents a failure of leadership, both Iraqi and American … that it was a sad case of political expediency triumphing over military necessity, both in Baghdad and in Washington … and that it will have serious negative consequences for Iraq’s stability and our national security interests. I sincerely hope that I am wrong, but I fear that General Jack Keane, who was one of the main architects of the surge, could be correct again when he said recently: "We won the war in Iraq, and we’re now losing the peace."
“Let me be clear: Like all Americans, I too am eager to bring our troops home. I do not want them to remain in Iraq or anywhere else for a day longer than necessary. But I also agree with our military commanders in Iraq, who were nearly unanimous in their belief that some U.S. forces — about 20,000 — should remain for a period of time to help the Iraqis secure the hard-won gains we had made together. All of our top commanders in Iraq — General Petraeus, General Odierno, General Austin — all of them believed that we needed to maintain a presence of U.S. troops there, and they consistently made that clear to many of us during our repeated visits to Iraq.