After nearly nine years, 4,500 American dead, 32,000 wounded and more than $800 billion, U.S. officials formally shut down the war in Iraq.
(AP) Baghdad - Panetta stepped off his military plane in Baghdad Thursday as the leader of America's war in Iraq, but will leave as one of many top U.S. and global officials who hope to work with the struggling nation as it tries to find its new place in the Middle East and the broader world.
He and several other U.S. diplomatic, military and defense leaders participated in a highly symbolic ceremony during which the flag of U.S. Forces-Iraq was officially retired, or "cased," according to Army tradition.
The U.S. Forces-Iraq flag was furled — or wrapped — around a flagpole and covered in camouflage. It will be brought back to the United States.
"You will leave with great pride — lasting pride," Panetta told the troops. "Secure in knowing that your sacrifice has helped the Iraqi people to cast tyranny aside and to offer hope for prosperity and peace to this country's future generations."
During several stops in Afghanistan this week, Panetta made it clear that the U.S. can be proud of its accomplishments in Iraq.