Dempsey: Iraq Campaign Was Worth the Cost

BAGHDAD, Dec. 15, 2011 — Top U.S. mil­i­tary lead­ers observed the offi­cial end of U.S. Forces Iraq’s mis­sion here today after near­ly nine years of con­flict that claimed the lives of near­ly 4,500 U.S. troops, and cre­at­ed a sov­er­eign nation from the destruc­tion of a bru­tal dic­ta­tor­ship.

On a stage in a smoky court­yard on the mil­i­tary side of Bagh­dad Inter­na­tion­al Air­port, Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta, Army Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, com­mand­ing gen­er­al of U.S. Forces Iraq, and U.S. Ambas­sador to Iraq James F. Jef­frey addressed U.S. and Iraqi offi­cials and more than 150 troops and media from around the world. Also on the stage was Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mat­tis, com­man­der of U.S. Cen­tral Command.

Panet­ta wel­comed dis­tin­guished mem­bers of the Iraqi gov­ern­ment and military.

“Thank you for your courage, for your lead­er­ship, for your friend­ship over these many years,” the sec­re­tary said. “More impor­tant­ly, thank you for your loy­al­ty to the future of Iraq. Your dream of an inde­pen­dent and sov­er­eign Iraq is now a real­i­ty.” “This is not the end,” he added. “This is tru­ly the beginning.”

As U.S. Forces Iraq’s mis­sion ends, Jef­frey said, it’s fit­ting to “look back at the sac­ri­fices made by so many Amer­i­cans and so many Iraqis.”

It’s also a time, he added, to “look for­ward to an Iraq that is sov­er­eign, secure and self-reliant, an Iraq with whom the Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment will con­tin­ue to work in every way pos­si­ble, build­ing on the suc­cess­es of our col­leagues in USFI led by Gen. Austin.”

The USFI com­man­der wel­comed the begin­ning of a new chap­ter in the U.S. strat­e­gy with Iraq, adding that he found the cer­e­mo­ny to be poignant.

“Eight years, eight months and 26 days ago, as the assis­tant divi­sion com­man­der for maneu­ver for the 3rd Infantry Divi­sion, I gave the order for the lead ele­ments of the divi­sion to cross the bor­der,” Austin said.

“As fate would have it,” he added, “I now give the order to case the col­ors today.”

Cas­ing the col­ors means pack­ing the U.S. Forces Iraq flag and send­ing it home to the Unit­ed States where it will be retired.

The home of U.S. Forces Iraq host­ed 45,000 to 49,000 troops for the vast major­i­ty of Oper­a­tion New Dawn and at the peak of the war housed 170,000 troops. Today only about 4,000 troops remain and every day hun­dreds more leave for stag­ing and out-pro­cess­ing facil­i­ties in Kuwait.

The rest of the troops will depart Iraq over the next two weeks, , well in advance of the Dec. 31 dead­line set by Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma, said Army Maj. Gen. Jef­frey Buchanan, the offi­cial spokesman for U.S. Forces Iraq.

For more than 20 years, Dempsey said, “Iraq has been a defin­ing part of our pro­fes­sion­al and per­son­al lives … Every­where, at every lev­el, we learned the pow­er of rela­tion­ships root­ed in trust and respect with our­selves and with our Iraqi brothers.”

The chair­man recalled when he deployed to Iraq in 1991 as part of Oper­a­tion Desert Storm to end Sad­dam Hussein’s oppres­sion of the Kuwaiti people.

More than a decade lat­er, Dempsey deployed to Iraq again.

“I remem­ber leav­ing my fam­i­ly again to end Sad­dam Hussein’s oppres­sion of the Iraqi peo­ple,” the chair­man said. “And now today I stand here with the very heart of my fam­i­ly, my wife, Deanie, to bear wit­ness to what our sons and daugh­ters — to what your sons and daugh­ters — have achieved.”

Dempsey said he’s proud that the Unit­ed States with its coali­tion part­ners and the Iraqi peo­ple teamed up to “set a course that befits the promise and spir­it of Iraq’s children.

“I look for­ward to an endur­ing part­ner­ship between our coun­tries,” the chair­man added.

The Defense Depart­ment val­ues the rela­tion­ship with Iraq, Dempsey said.

“We will stand with you against ter­ror­ists and oth­ers that threat­en to undo what we have accom­plished togeth­er,” he said. “We will work with you to secure our com­mon inter­ests in a more peace­ful and pros­per­ous region.”

Every­one who served in Iraq will car­ry an image of that time, the chair­man said.

“Today my image is of Com­mand Sgt. Maj. Eric Cooke … of the First Brigade, First Armored Divi­sion, who on Christ­mas Eve 2003 was killed by an IED … in north­ern Bagh­dad. Prob­a­bly the finest non­com­mis­sioned offi­cer I’d ever met,” Dempsey said.

“We’ve paid a great price here,” the chair­man added, “and it has been a price worth paying.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →