Conflict & Justice

Camp Victory: US hands over military headquarters to Iraq


US soldiers walk towards the Al-Faw palace on November 7, 2011, formerly owned by executed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and located in what is now the US military Camp Victory complex in Baghdad. What were once among the most sensitive US sites in Iraq, including a palace that housed top generals and a bombed-out villa that held Saddam Hussein, will soon be back in Iraqi hands by the end of the year.



The US military has handed over the Camp Victory complex, its former headquarters in Iraq, to local authorities.

The base changed owners Friday, US military spokesman Col. Barry Johnson told Agence France Presse. There was no handover ceremony, he said, just paperwork to be signed "akin to the closing of a home sale."

All US troops had left by Thursday night.

It marks the end of nearly nine years of American residency in the complex next to Baghdad airport, which was originally built as a luxury palace by Saddam Hussein.

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When the US military took it over following the invasion of Iraq in 2003, up to 46,000 American generals, troops and military personnel lived there when the surge was at its height.

Saddam returned to the complex as a prisoner, where he was interrogated and housed until he was handed over for execution by the Iraqi authorities in 2006.

The site effectively became an American town, said the BBC, with fast-food chains, its own bus service and a dirt speedway.

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The compound is so big it takes 30 minutes to drive from one end to the other, Iraq correspondent Mike Gudgell wrote on ABC's news blog. Amid rocket attacks, soldiers would fish for bass and carp in the site's several lakes, he said.

The Associated Press described Camp Victory as an icon of "the American military experience in Iraq":

From here, the highest-ranking generals sitting behind banks of telephones and video screens communicated with commanders in the field and political leaders in Washington and dictated strategy that unfolded on the streets of Fallujah, Mosul and Najaf.

It was an intersection in the war where US troops, hot and dusty after traveling across Iraq’s deadly roads and highways, could relax with a latte or bootlegged movie before heading back out again.

The Iraqi government has not yet announced its plans for the complex, reported NPR. The Iraqi military is already using parts of the site, while there is talk of turning the quarters where Saddam was held prisoner into a museum.

The US now has just five bases in Iraq still to be handed over, said AFP. As of late Thursday, there were fewer than 12,000 US military personnel in the country.

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