U.S. President Barack Obama pays tribute to the troops in a speech on December 14, 2011 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Credit: Davis Turner

The last American soldiers rolled out of Iraq at dawn on Sunday, ending nearly nine years of war.

The last convoy of MRAPs armored personnel carriers carrying 500 U.S. troops crossed the border into neighboring Kuwait, with soldiers "whooping, fist bumping and hugging each other in a burst of joy and relief," according to The Associated Press, which added that:

The war that began in a blaze of aerial bombardment meant to shock and awe the dictator Saddam Hussein and his loyalists ended quietly and with minimal fanfare.

Most reports mentioned that the US campaign in Iraq not only cost almost 4,500 American lives and around 100,000 Iraqi lives, but also cost the US $800 billion and left Iraq in a state of political uncertainty.

According to Reuters:

The war launched in March 2003 with missiles striking Baghdad to oust President Saddam Hussein closes with a fragile democracy still facing insurgents, sectarian tensions and the challenge of defining its place in an Arab region in turmoil.

Saddam was hanged on Dec. 30 2006, and while his death bought "relief," the AP wrote, it was "tempered by a long and vicious war that was launched to find nonexistent weapons of mass destruction and nearly plunged the nation into full-scale sectarian civil war." 

While violence has subsided, Reuters writes, Sunni Islamists and rival Shiite militias carry out almost daily attacks on Iraqi government and security officials.

(GlobalPost reports: Obama marks end of iraq war praising troops)

In an interview with ABC News' Barbara Walters, Obama reportedly stopped short of calling the U.S. effort in Iraq a victory.U.S. President Barack Obama made an election promise to bring troops home from the most unpopular war since Vietnam, started by his preecessor George W. Bush.

"I would describe our troops as having succeeded in the mission of giving to the Iraqis their country in a way that gives them a chance for a successful future," Obama said.

Concerns remain about the ability of Iraqi forces to contain the violence after a deal for U.S. troops to stay on to provide training in such disciplines as intelligence gathering fell apart over the issue of legal immunity.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi economy is in a dire state, with high unemployment and limited access to daily necessities such as electricity.

According to Reuters:

U.S. and foreign companies are already helping Iraq develop the world's fourth-largest oil reserves, but its economy needs investment in all sectors, from hospitals to infrastructure.

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