Watch VideoPlay Video
The last American combat troops in Iraq have left Iraq, more than seven years after a US-led invasion toppled Iraqi former leader Saddam Hussein. Full Story>>
Seven years and five months after the US-led invasion, the last American combat troops were leaving Iraq on Wednesday, crossing the border into Kuwait from where the strike was first launched in 2003. Let's take a look back at that event, and the ongoing pullout.
Meeting his long promised August 31st deadline means US President Barack Obama is on target to keep his assurances to Americans, the vow he made during his election campaign.
Obama laid out the plan to withdraw most US troops from Iraq in a speech delivered on February 27th, 2009.
He also said all American troops will be out of the country by December 31st, 2011.
US president Barack Obama said, "The United States will continue to stand with Iraq as a strong partner, and as a friend. Tough challenges remain, and I'm sure that there will be difficult days to come. But this agreement advances the political progress that can bring lasting peace and unity to Iraq, and allow for the orderly and responsible transition of American combat troops out of Iraq by next September."
Obama's Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, launched the US-led invasion that ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Former US president George W. Bush said, "At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operation to disarm Iraq, to free its people, and to defend the world from grave danger. On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking select targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein's ability to wage war. They are the opening stages of what will be a broad and concerted campaign."
But the war became exceptionally unpopular among Americans as US deaths mounted amid growing sectarian violence.
As of Wednesday, the Defense Department said there were 4,419 US military deaths since the invasion.
Throughout 2008, the United States and Iraq were involved in complex negotiations to hammer out the specifics of a plan for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.
But they found the process was not that easy.
While violence has dipped sharply since the height of sectarian warfare from 2006-2007, Iraq is still extremely fragile, and its leaders have not resolved a number of politically explosive issues that could easily trigger renewed fighting.
Former US Secretary of Statee Colin Powell said, "Defining victory will be a disarmed Iraq. And, if it's done peacefully, no invasion or military action is required. It will be an Iraqi regime that has forsworn these weapons of mass destruction, and done so in a way to believe them, and that's hard to imagine believing them right now."
While the US has been scaling down its troop presence in Iraq, it has been stepping up its military commitment to Afghanistan, with the President ordering a surge of 30,000 additional soldiers there.
Some say the pullout of American-led troops can bring Iraq a step closer to taking control of its own destiny.
But others are criticizing the US for leaving out too soon, without solving any of the country's problems.