It's about time some of these troops are finally getting to come home from Iraq. We're still going to have 50,000 troops there so this doesn't mean the end of casualties by any means, though the troops in Iraq have seen a drastic reduction in casualties as Iraqi troops take responsibility for their own security.
The official end to Operation Iraqi Freedom is August 31st. But today's exit of the last Stryker Brigade into Kuwait signals an end to the United States' active combat role in that country, and serves as notice that the promises made to leave are being kept.
The remaining 50,000 troops will continue to leave the country through December, 2011, when the US military presence is scheduled to end completely.
This does signify fulfillment of President Obama's promise as well:
February 28, 2009:
The plan will withdraw most of the 142,000 troops now in Iraq by the summer of next year, leaving 35,000 to 50,000 behind with the limited missions of training and advising Iraq security forces, hunting terrorist cells and protecting U.S. civilian and military personnel. Those "transitional forces" will leave by 2011 in accordance with a strategic agreement negotiated by President George W. Bush before he left office.
"Let me say this as plainly as I can," Obama told the Marines. "By August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end."
The Associated Press, Fox News, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Al Jazeera and other media outlets also reported Wednesday evening that the last combat troops were crossing into Kuwait. Only NBC broadcast it live, in asymmetrical image to the invasion that captured the nation’s attention on television seven years ago.
The movement of the trucks, televised live on “NBC Nightly News” and simulcast on MSNBC, was a largely symbolic demonstration that the war, as Americans have known it, is in its waning phases.
Still, a White House spokesman reiterated Wednesday night that the combat mission in Iraq formally ends on August 31. At that time, Operation Iraqi Freedom becomes Operation New Dawn, with troops serving as trainers for the Iraqi military, much as they have for several months already. More than 50,000 troops will remain in Iraq; they will be reclassified as trainers.
Asked how the NBC broadcast constituted “an official Pentagon announcement,” Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, said the broadcast was such a declaration because “the announcement that the last striker brigade was leaving Iraq had not been made” by the military. [...]
NBC officials said their requests to report live during the withdrawal were first filed many weeks ago. The requests provoked debate within the military, with some people arguing that having reporters present would place excess attention on the fact that the troops were leaving.
“But the Iraqis know we’re leaving; it’s hardly a secret,” Mr. Engel said.
Wednesday’s reports came as the media prepares to cover the formal end of combat in Iraq at the end of the month. “It’s not just the gimmick of one live broadcast, it is yet again a commitment to covering what is happening in Iraq and the brave men and women who have committed so much of their lives to these missions,” said Mr. Capus.