Early this morning Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed the official order to end the Iraq war.
The Hill reports:
Just before 7 a.m. Sunday, Panetta signed the official order that ended the nearly decade-old -- and highly controversial -- Iraq war.
'At 6:59 A.M., Secretary Panetta approved the order officially ending the Iraq war,' Pentagon press secretary George Little tweeted shortly after.
Al Jazeera notes that "the withdrawal ends a war that left tens of thousands of Iraqis and nearly 4,500 American soldiers dead, many more wounded, and 1.75 million Iraqis displaced, after the US-led invasion unleashed brutal sectarian killing."
Yet is this a full withdrawal? And is the war really over?
Spencer Ackerman observes that while Panetta may have signed the official order, this is not a finale to the US presence in Iraq.
It may not be so final. The U.S. leaves behind a massive embassy in Iraq guarded by up to 5,500 armed security contractors. Little is known about that hired army — when, for instance, it can open fire on Iraqis to protect U.S. diplomats — but it amounts to a privatized residual U.S. force. And in addition to Iraq’s lingering political problems, the country is still a battleground for competing U.S. and Iranian interests. Still, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little tweeted on Sunday morning that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has “approved the order officially ending the Iraq war: EXORD 1003 Victor, Mod 9.”
And the Predators? They won’t exactly leave Iraq after the pullout. On Friday, Panetta secured Baghdad’s approval to allow the drones to fly — unarmed — over northern Iraq from Turkey’s Incirlik air base. They’ll be spying for Kurdish terrorists.