After seven and one-half years, the last U.S. combat troops left Iraq Wednesday night.
When President Obama ran for office he campaigned on leaving the country in a sensible way and that day has finally arrived. The arrival of the 14,000 troops of the Army’s 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Lewis, Wash., into Kuwait marked the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the beginning of a new mission in Iraq.
About 50,000 U.S. troops will remain in the country to provide support and training for the Iraqi military.
Unfortunately for some of the soldiers who just left the country, they will have to return to combat missions in Afghanistan in a few months; however, with a tentative troop withdrawal in that country set to begin in July 2011, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
After long debates about the validity of the War in Iraq, and after billions of dollars spent and 4,415 U.S. service members killed, according to the most recent Pentagon figures, these brave men and women deserve a warm welcome home.
“We are done with operations,” Lt. Steven DeWitt of San Jose, Calif., said in an interview with Richard Engel, NBC News’ chief foreign correspondent, as his vehicle reached Khabari Crossing on the border. “This was a professional soldier’s job [and] a war that has defined this generation of military men and women. And today it’s over.”
Only history will tell if the War in Iraq was worth it and both sides of the political spectrum will try to claim credit. Democrats will say they have campaigned for years on ending the war and under their leadership that happened. Republicans will say it was President George W. Bush’s strategy of having a troop surge that created a more stable Iraq.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) issued a statement in early August already trying to claim credit saying it was the Bush Administration and Republican policies that contributed to the withdrawal.
“Despite many difficult debates in 2007 and 2008, Republicans stood on principle against the irresponsible plans put forth by congressional Democrats to withdraw all our troops and leave Iraq in chaos,” he said. “The drawdown of U.S. troops that began under the previous administration has been able to continue.”
This historic moment should not be left to political posturing though. Both parties had a hand in how this war played out and the success of this war should be given strictly to the U.S. service personnel and the Iraqi forces.
Thank you to the men and women of the United States military for all you have done and may you have a safe trip home.
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