18 Dec 2011

US troops pull out of Iraq after 9 years

10:34 pm on 18 December 2011

The last convoy of American troops to leave Iraq has crossed into Kuwait, ending the US withdrawal nearly nine years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

The final column of about 100 armoured vehicles carrying 500 soldiers crossed the southern Iraqi desert on Sunday without fanfare, in stark contrast to the "Shock and Awe" bombardment Washington hurled against Saddam Hussein in 2003.

United States forces ended combat missions in Iraq in 2010, and have already handed over much of their security role.

At the peak of their presence there were 170,000 US troops and more than 500 bases in Iraq.

Nearly 4500 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis have died since the US-led campaign began in 2003.

The operation has cost the United States nearly $US1 trillion.

As the last of the armoured vehicles crossed the border, a gate closed behind them and US and Kuwaiti soldiers shook hands and posed for photographs, the BBC reports.

The only US military presence left in Iraq is 157 soldiers in charge of training at the US embassy, and a small contingent of marines to protect the diplomatic mission.

The low-key US exit was in stark contact to the blaze of aerial bombardment Washington unleashed against Saddam Hussein in 2003.