NEAR THE IRAQ-KUWAIT BORDER — The last U.S. combat troops were crossing the border into Kuwait on Thursday morning, bringing to a close the active combat phase of a 7½-year war that overthrew the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein, forever defined the presidency of George W. Bush and left more than 4,400 American service members and tens of thousands of Iraqis dead.
The final convoy of the Army’s 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Lewis, Wash., began entering Kuwait about 1:30 a.m. (6:30 p.m. Wednesday ET), carrying the last of the 14,000 U.S. combat forces in Iraq, said NBC’s Richard Engel, who has been traveling with the brigade as it moved out this week.
The departure marks the official end of Operation Iraqi Freedom, P.J. Crowley, a spokesman for the State Department, told msnbc [sic] TV. But while it 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.”
We should never have gone there in the first place. That said, the men and women who did their duty as they were ordered to do served with honor, and we owe them the respect they have earned and deserve. Welcome home.
We have paid a huge price in their blood and our treasure. It will be years before the toll is finally counted and we may never know how many lives were lost or destroyed. I hold them all — everyone, from every country and the civilians who were trapped in this misbegotten folly — in the Light and hope they find peace and quiet. For those thousands of Americans who died and the countless more who were lost in the crossfire, I mourn them for the lives and the loved ones they left behind.