Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was swept into office in November largely on the promise that he would bring home the country's 550 combat troops by the middle of 2008, saying the Iraq deployment has made Australia more of a target for terrorism.
U.S. President George W. Bush said in March that he understood the decision and it would not harm bilateral relations.
The Australians had "successfully accomplished their mission" and their contributions "assisted in the stabilization and development of Iraq," U.S. military spokesman Col. Bill Buckner said in a statement.
The combat troops were expected to return home over the next few weeks.
But the Australians said several hundred other troops will remain in Iraq to act as security and headquarters liaisons and to guard diplomats. Australia also will leave behind two maritime surveillance aircraft and a warship to help patrol oil platforms in the Gulf.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi government is sensing some problems in their ongoing negotiations on the continuing US presence:
The official statement by government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh comes amid growing opposition to the deal among Iraqis who see it as a possible violation of Iraq's sovereignty and are worried about an extended presence of American troops.
Talks "are still in their early stages and the Iraqi side has a vision and a draft that is different" from those being presented by U.S. negotiators, al-Dabbagh said.
He was not more specific about the points but insisted the Iraqi government was focused on "fully preserving the sovereignty of Iraq ... and will not accept any article that infringes on this sovereignty and doesn't guarantee the interests of Iraqis."
The interest of the Iraqis? Since when have we used that as a metric?