soldiers leave Iraq, photoThe last U.S. combat brigade rolled out of Iraq August 19 ending a seven-year military operation that toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein.

The focus of the U.S. mission now has shifted, and by the end of August the remaining 50,000 U.S. military personnel left in Iraq will train and support Iraqi security forces, senior U.S. defense officials say.

In June 2009, U.S. forces withdrew from Iraqi cities entirely and missions conducted after that date were at the specific request of the Iraqi government and were joint missions with Iraqi security forces, he added.

The remaining 50,000 U.S. military personnel will be withdrawn from the country by December 2011 under an agreement reached between the United States and Iraq earlier, another Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, said, according to news reports.

“As a practical matter, we have now been conducting stability operations for the last several months,” Whitman said in an interview with the American Forces Press Service. “It takes us from a military lead to a civilian lead.”

“We still have a significant amount of people here. We still have a significant amount of influence to conduct stability operations to support this government as they continue to grow in capability and capacity,” Major General Stephen Lanza, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, said August 19 in an interview with Fox Television News.

“More importantly, our mission here will allow Iraq not only to grow as a country, but also to expand their security, and also economic development throughout the region, which is extremely important,” he added.

Part of the role of the remaining U.S. troops is to assist with counterterrorism operations for the Iraqi security forces, Lanza said. And the military will also support provincial reconstruction teams that are working for the U.S. State Department, which is helping to build civil capacity and develop civil institutions, he added.

The Pentagon said the final U.S. combat unit crossed the Iraqi border into Kuwait before dawn on August 19. The unit and its equipment will be shipped back to the United States.

(Source: Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State:


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