Today, with just a simple ceremony conducted at Baghdad airport, marked the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Defense Secretary Panetta spoke at the ceremony praising the sacrifices made by the men and women of the armed forces.
“No words, no ceremony, can provide full tribute to the sacrifices that have brought this day to pass,” Panetta told the troops. “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. They gave birth to an independent, free and sovereign Iraq.” Approximately 1.5 million Americans had served in Iraq. Nearly 4,500 had died and 30,000 had been wounded.
“You will leave with great pride — lasting pride,” Panetta said. “Secure in knowing that your sacrifice has helped the Iraqi people to begin a new chapter in history.”
Yesterday in a ceremony at Fort Bragg the President welcomed soldiers returning from Iraq. It was to mark the end of the war in Iraq fulfilling a campaign promise he made in 2008. He praised the the soldiers telling them they were “the finest fighting force in the history of the world“.
Even as the U.S. military continues to leave Iraq there are those in Washington who are not convinced that Iraq has the ability to sustain itself and fight of what some consider the inevitable influence from Iran. Many also fear the country could plunge back into sectarian violence.
Senator John McCain criticized Obama, taking note that he opposed the surge which was a major factor in controlling the violence in Iraq. He stated it was “a bit presumptuous” for Mr Obama to take credit for the conflict and referred to the President’s visit to Fort Bragg as his “victory lap“.
“Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq told CNN that he was “shocked” to hear U.S. President Barack Obama greet al-Maliki at the White House on Monday as “the elected leader of a sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq.” He said Washington is leaving Iraq “with a dictator” who has ignored a power-sharing agreement, kept control of the country’s security forces and rounded up hundreds of people in recent weeks.