Iraq war: Last US combat brigade crosses into Kuwait
The last US combat brigade in the Iraq war crossed into Kuwait on Thursday, leaving behind 50,000 US troops in an unsettled country still struggling to form a government.
The last US combat brigade crossed into Kuwait Thursday morning after a series of night maneuvers through the desert, marking a new chapter in the seven-year-conflict in which the struggle for political power has replaced direct combat.Skip to next paragraph
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More than 1,200 infantrymen and other soldiers moved out by road in 360 armored vehicles over the past five days in night-time operations kept under wraps until the last troops crossed the border. Fighter jets accompanied them along a route cleared of bombs and landmines. More than 2,000 of the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team soldiers had already flown out of the country.
They leave behind 50,000 other US troops in an unsettled Iraq still struggling to form a government, and many Iraqis fear that the prospect of US troops withdrawing entirely next year along with the political chaos could reactivate fighting here.
“Major war, serious war … is over,” says Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar al-Zubari. “You don’t have safe havens for the insurgents – you don’t have a war because all the roads leading to the south, north, east, and west are open. Still, the war is not over because you still have serious security challenges and a political drift that may lead to violence or the resurgence of violence.”
Failed attempts to form coalition government
More than five months after Iraqis went to the polls in an election billed by the United States as crucial to stability here, attempts to form a coalition government have stalled over disagreements on which factions would get the major posts.
Mr. Zubari spoke to the Monitor after a ceremony commemorating the 43 Iraqi diplomats and Foreign Ministry employees killed in a huge suicide truck bomb attack on the Ministry a year ago Thursday. Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for the bombing and other attacks on government ministries, but only low-level suspects have been convicted.
Zubari, flanked by an honor guard, laid a wreath as candles flickered below the names of each of the victims, written in gold script on a marble wall in the rebuilt ministry. Civil servants and uniformed workmen on balconies on the upper floors wiped away tears as an imam led prayers for the dead and a bugler played "the last post" for those fallen in war. More than 300 others were wounded in the bombing.
“This was closure,” says Zubari, who has been foreign minister for the entire post-Saddam Hussein era. “Throughout the last year, we were busy with caring for the wounded, for treating them, for moving back to the main building. But we’ve beaten the terrorists – they couldn’t subjugate us – in fact, we’ve worked even harder.”