15 Dec 2011

US military marking end of Iraq combat ops

8:36 pm on 15 December 2011

After nearly nine years of war, the US military is formally marking the end of its combat operations in in Iraq with a flag lowering ceremony in Baghdad.

Most of the 5,500 remaining soldiers have now left Iraq, with security in the hands of the Iraqi authorities.

In a speech in North Carolina on Wednesday to troops just returned from Iraq, President Barak Obama hailed the "extraordinary achievement" of the military and said they were leaving with "heads held high".

Mr Obama, who came to office pledging to bring troops home, said the US left behind a "sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq".

The BBC says some 4,500 US soldiers and more than 100,000 Iraqis have died in the war, which has cost the US some $1 trillion.

In addition to the US soldiers who died, nearly 30,000 have been wounded.

Republicans have criticised the pullout citing concerns over Iraq's stability, but most Americans support the move.