Online Staff Report
Speaking at a ceremony from a fortified concrete courtyard at the airport in Baghdad Dec. 15, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta declared an end to the U.S. war in Iraq.
“Let me be clear: Iraq will be tested in the days ahead — by terrorism, and by those who would seek to divide, by economic and social issues, by the demands of democracy itself,” Panetta said. “Challenges remain, but the U.S. will be there to stand by the Iraqi people as they navigate those challenges to build a stronger and more prosperous nation.”
The war in Iraq began March 20, 2003, after the U.S. and United Kingdom claimed Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction. No weapons of mass destruction were ever found.
U.S. casualties in the war have totaled 4,487, with 32,226 wounded.
Brown University’s Costs of War project estimated the total for wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is at least $3.2-$4 trillion.
The Brown University report said the Department of Defense’s direct spending on Iraq totaled at least $757.8 billion. It also included complementary costs at home, such as interest paid on the funds borrowed to finance the wars and a potential nearly $1 trillion in extra spending to care for veterans returning from combat through 2050.
Although the Dec. 15 ceremony at the Baghdad airport signaled a ceremonial end to the war, the U.S. military still has two bases, about 4,000 troops and a number of independent contractors in Iraq. At the height of the war in 2007, the U.S. had 505 bases and more than 170,000 troops in Iraq.
Former President George W. Bush was president when a deal to withdraw troops from Iraq by the end of 2011 was signed by Iraq and the United States. President Barack Obama declared the end of combat operations earlier this year, and recommitted the United States to the Dec. 31 deadline Oct. 21.
Prior to Obama’s Oct. 21 declaration of the end of the war, the U.S. had been discussing with Iraqi leaders the possibility of several thousand U.S. troops remaining in Iraq. However, Iraqi leaders refused to give U.S. troops immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts, and the U.S. refused to stay without that agreement.
According to reports, remaining U.S. troops are still attacked on a daily basis. After the last two bases are closed and remaining troops are sent home, a few hundred military personnel and Pentagon civilians will remain in Iraq. A number of private contractors will also remain in the country.
According to the New York Times, “negotiations could resume next year on whether additional American military personnel can return to further assist their Iraqi counterparts.
“Senior American military officers have made no secret that they see crucial gaps in Iraq’s ability to defend its sovereign soil and even to secure its oil platforms offshore in the Persian Gulf.”
Most notably, the war effort led to the Dec. 13, 2003, capture of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Hussein was charged by the Iraqi Special Tribunal with crimes committed against residents of Dujail in 1982, following a failed assassination attempt against him. Specific charges included the murder of 148 people, torture of women and children, and the illegal arrest of 399 others.
Hussein was found guilty Nov. 5, 2006, and hanged Dec. 30, 2006.