Seven years and five months after the U.S.-led invasion, the last American combat brigade was crossed the Kuwait-Iraq border on before dawn today. (check AP report by Rebecca Santana).
It was the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 2nd Infantry Division that pulled back from Iraq, two weeks ahead of President Barack Obama’s Aug. 31, 2010 deadline for ending U.S. combat operations there. Yet, the U.S. presence in the country is far from over as some 56,000 U.S. troops are staying for at least another year, in what is designated as a ‘advise and assist‘ non-combat role. Special Forces will continue to help Iraqis hunt for terrorists while other troops will be training and assisting Iraqi troops on their security missions. In fact, as the 4th Stryker BCT left Iraq, soldiers of the 2nd Stryker BCT of the 25th Infantry Division are deployed in Iraq as members of an ‘Advise and Assist Brigade’, the Army’s designation for brigades selected to conduct security force assistance. The 2nd Stryker BCT is one of seven ‘Advice and Assist Brigades’ currently positioned in the country, along with National Guard brigades.
The military was preparing for the withdrawal for several months, restricting media reports on the brigade’s movements until they were almost to the border. The brigade decided to fly half of the troops by air and send 4,000 soldiers overland, maintaining the 360 Strykers vehicles force in combat ready posture for an extra three weeks. The Strykers left the Baghdad area in separate convoys over a four-day period, traveling through potentially hostile territory over the 500 km road to Kuwait at night, minimizing U.S. military movements by day. Highway overpasses and other sensitive points were covered by U.S. military overwatches and attack helicopters, with the banks of the highway constantly swept for suspected IEDs. The biggest threat was roadside bombs planted by Shiite extremist groups who have a strong foothold in the south.
The AP story, which was followed by other reports in the U.S. media, seems aimed at looking for a ‘happy end’ for the U.S. role in the Iraqi conflict. However, the international press is not impressed. Here are few the skeptical commentators:
Defense Update News Analysis: The Beginning Or the End of The Iraq War?
Defense Update News Analysis: Are Iraqi Security Forces Up to the Challenge?