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Backgrounder: US ends 7-year combat mission in Iraq

09-01-2010 13:51 BJT Special Report:The future of Iraq post-US withdrawal |

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The US military has cut its forces in Iraq to below 50,000. Many say the withdrawal is probably a little premature. Whether Iraq can handle its own security remains to be seen. For now, let's take a look back at some decisive moments of the war.

It's time to pack and go home.

Everything from helicopters to printer cartridges were being wrapped, stamped and shipped out of Iraq over the weekend.

Soldiers who battled insurgents and roadside bombs are now doing inventory and accounting. They are reversing the course of a US military presence that was built up over seven years of war.

The major pullout began weeks before the August 31st deadline. Soldiers were transported to Kuwait to catch up with flights to take them home.

And Kuwait was indeed the starting point of the lengthy war.

On March 20th, 2003, US-led forces launched the war in Iraq with a sudden attack from Kuwait to oust Saddam Hussein.

Within a very short span of time, more than 125,000 US and British soldiers and marines had gathered in Iraq to reinforce the combat mission.

20 days after the launch of the war, US-led forces took control of Baghdad. And Saddam Hussein was no where to be found.

On May 1st, 2003, speaking to navy personnel gathering on deck of aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln off the California coast, then US President George W. Bush declared victory.

Former US president George W. Bush said, "My fellow Americans, major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."

But the search for the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein continued.

By the end of the year, US troops captured Saddam in a hideout near Tikrit, the former strongman's hometown.

From then on, US-led forces were in total control of Iraq's security as new challenges emerged.

On February 22nd, 2006, the bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra sparked widespread sectarian violence, raising fears of a civil war.

To keep the situation under control, the US military continued strengthening its combat forces in Iraq. By June 15th, 2007, the US military said it had completed its troop buildup, or "surge", to 160,000 soldiers.

Eventually, Iraq would have to protect itself and its people on its own. To facilitate the process, US Commander in Iraq, General David Patraeus, recommended cutting troops by more than 20,000 by mid-2008. He said the reduction was necessary to gradually transfer the security control to Iraqi authorities.

The troop reduction was carried out as planned. By July, 2008, the number of US troops in Iraq had been brought down to 147,000.

On November 17th, 2008, Iraq and the US signed an accord requiring Washington to withdraw its forces by the end of 2011. The pact gives the Iraqi government the authority over the US mission for the first time, replacing a UN Security Council mandate. The Iraqi Parliament approved the pact after 10 days of negotiations.

On New Year's Day, 2009, the US-Iraqi Security pact officially came into force, placing 140,000 US troops in Iraq under Iraqi authority.

In about two months, new US President Barack Obama announced his plan to end the US combat mission in Iraq by August 31st, 2010.

US president Barack Obama said, "With respect to the security agreement between the US and Iraq, the critical long-term solution to Iraq must be political, not military. Because the most important decision that has to be made about Iraq's future must now be made by Iraq."

By the end of June, 2009, all US combat units had withdrawn from Iraq's urban centers and re-deployed to bases outside.

The current troop level in Iraq has dropped to just under 50,000 after the major draw down was completed.

The US military says that there have been 4,419 US military deaths since the launch of the war in 2003. Iraqi civilian deaths have surpassed 100,000.

Editor:Zhang Ning |Source: CNTV

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