Washington, Dec 15 (IANS): US President Barack Obama Wednesday marked the end of the Iraq war with a visit to troops at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Xinhua reported.
He said the final work for the US military to leave Iraq has been done, and the last troops will begin a final march out of that country in the next few days.
Addressing the members of the 82nd Airborne and Army Special Operations, Obama said although the country the US left behind is "not a perfect place", but is nevertheless "a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq".
"We are building a new partnership between our nations. And we are ending a war not with a final battle, but with a final march toward home," said the president, noting the US has done "the best" it could in Iraq.
Reflecting on the heavy cost of war, Obama noted nearly 4,500 US service members died in Iraq, including 202 troops from Fort Bragg.
He acknowledged the eight-and-a-half-years of war "was a source of great controversy here at home, with patriots on both sides of the debate," saying "it is harder to end a war than to begin one".
As a presidential candidate, Obama campaigned on the pledge to end the Iraq war, and according to an agreement with the Iraqi government, US forces are pulling out of that country by year-end.
The White House initially wanted to retain some troops in Iraq as military trainers, but failed to agree with Iraqis on the terms.
Hosting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the White House Monday, Obama said it was time to "begin a new chapter in the history between our countries. A normal relationship between sovereign nations. An equal partnership based on mutual interests and mutual respect."