US military marked the end of its Iraq operations in a ceremony attended by Vice President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The remaining 13,000 US troops are due to withdraw by end of year.
Vice President Joe Biden made a surprise trip to Baghdad yesterday to honor US sacrifices in the war in Iraq.
As they prepare for the final exit from the war in Iraq, US troops aim to avoid any spectacular attack – and take stock of a conflict that gave the Middle East its worst violence in recent decades.
Gen. Lloyd Austin warned the Iraqi government about dangers from Al Qaeda in Iraq, as well as Iran-backed Shiite insurgent groups – the same players that have perennially dogged US forces.
The Obama administration is considering a plan to leave about 3,000 support troops behind at the end of the year, if Iraqis agree. But reports suggest that the Pentagon is angling for more.
Amid the volatile Arab Spring and ongoing security threats in Iraq, top US military officials have expressed openness to keeping troops on the ground past the Dec. 31 deadline for withdrawal.
Despite progress in Iraq, the Pentagon cautions that security in the country remains fragile. Military and civilian officials hint that the US could stay past 2011.