Hooah! Last U.S. Combat Brigade Leaves Iraq in Dead of Night

August 19, 2010

(ChattahBox)—Last night the U.S. 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division quietly drove out of Iraq and crossed the Kuwaiti border. The weary soldiers were part of the last full combat brigade left in Iraq. And with their exit, Operation Iraqi Freedom comes to an end, after seven long years and the deaths of more than 4,400 U.S. service members. As with any historic occasion, it began with an explosion, and ended with a whimper.

The official end of Operation Iraqi Freedom will not be observed until August 31, but the 4th Stryker Brigade left two-weeks early under secrecy, with embedded reporters unable to report on the operation, until the soldiers were safely on their way out of Iraq.

NBC, MSNBC and CNN provided coverage of the brigade rolling along the dusty desert road to Kuwait, But only NBC and MSNBC showed it live, with interviews of departing soldiers. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and NBC’s Richard Engel were reporting live from the scene, capturing the final closing of the gate.

The White House downplayed the historic exit somewhat, carefully noting military personnel still remained in Iraq. But NBC embedded correspondent Engel, said his network’s live coverage honored the troops and and their sacrifices.

“In explaining NBC’s live coverage earlier this week, the network’s chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, said the war “shouldn’t end with such a whisper.” “We should have a time to reflect on the accomplishments of the military, of their sacrifices, of their failures,” he said in a telephone interview from Iraq this week, surrounded by the empty containers at Camp Liberty outside Baghdad.”

The U.S. forces remaining in Iraq will soon revert to advisory roles.

The Washington Post has the report:

“The 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which left Iraq this week, was the final U.S. combat brigade to be pulled out of the country, fulfilling the Obama administration’s pledge to end the U.S. combat mission by the end of August. About 50,000 U.S. troops will remain in Iraq, mainly as a training force.”

“By the end of this month, the United States will have six brigades in Iraq, by far its smallest footprint since the 2003 invasion. Those that remain are conventional combat brigades reconfigured slightly and rebranded “advise and assist brigades.” The primary mission of those units and the roughly 4,500 U.S. special operations forces that will stay behind will be to train Iraqi troops. Under a bilateral agreement, all U.S. troops must be out of Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011.”

President Obama released a statement calling the nighttime exit a “milestone in the Iraq war.” “I hope you’ll join me in thanking them, and all of our troops and military families, for their service,” he added.

The state department spokesperson was careful to note the U.S. still has a mission in Iraq to assist the country with maintaining a stable government.

“P.J. Crowley, a spokesman for the State Department, told msnbc TV that while the departure is “an historic moment,” he said, it is not the end of the U.S. mission in Iraq. “We are ending the war … but we are not ending our work in Iraq,” he said. “We have a long-term commitment to Iraq.”’

Many questions remain about the long-term stability of Iraq’s fragile government, especially in the wake of its uncertain election, but it was heartening to see American combat troops driving away for good into Kuwait and eventually, into the loving arms of their families.


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