Baghdad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The last U.S. combat brigade, the 4th Stryker, left Iraq yesterday, crossing the border with Kuwait. In Iraq there are still 56 thousand American troops, but the number should decrease to 50 thousand by the end of August. The remaining soldiers will be converted into assistance forces.
Philip Crowley, spokesman for the State Department, spoke of a "historic moment" and assured that it is not the end of the American presence in Iraq, but the beginning of a new phase: "The last thing that we want to see is an occasion where we have to send troops back into Iraq yet again. This is not the end of something. It's a transition to something different. We have a long-term commitment to Iraq".
The U.S. led coalition invaded Iraq in 2003. In over seven and a half years, the U.S. spent 10 billion dollars, 4,415 soldiers have died in the fighting.
Iraqi politicians and army officers voiced concerns ahead of the U.S. withdrawal. In fact the situation is still unstable. On 17 August, a suicide attack outside an army recruiting center in Baghdad killed more than 50 people and 100 wounded other. Moreover, the Iraqi government has not yet been formed, although the elections were held in March.
The complete withdrawal of American troops from Iraq is scheduled for the end of 2011. According Babaker Zerbari, the Iraqi lieutenant general, that's when the problems will start: "At this point, the withdrawal is going well, because they[troops] are still here. But the problem will start after 2011 - I would say to politicians: the US army must stay until the Iraqi army is fully ready in 2020.