US lowers flag to end Iraq war
The US military has formally shut down the war in Iraq, officially retiring the flag of US Forces-Iraq.
Troops lowered the flag and wrapped it in camouflage, formally "casing" it, according to Army tradition. The Baghdad ceremony was attended by US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, who told troops they leave Iraq with "lasting pride".
Mr Panetta said veterans of the nearly nine-year conflict can be "secure in knowing that your sacrifice has helped the Iraqi people to cast tyranny aside".
Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Lloyd Austin, the top US commander in Iraq, also spoke at the ceremony at Baghdad International Airport.
The war has cost 4,500 American dead, 32,000 wounded and more than 800 billion dollars (£516 billion).
Mr Panetta stepped off his military plane in Baghdad as the leader of America's war in Iraq, but will leave as one of many top US 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 US diplomatic, military and defence leaders participated in the highly symbolic ceremony. The US Forces-Iraq flag will be brought back to the United States.
"You will leave with great pride - lasting pride," Mr 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, Mr Panetta made it clear that the US can be proud of its accomplishments in Iraq.
"We spilled a lot of blood there," Mr Panetta said. "But all of that has not been in vain. It's been to achieve a mission making that country sovereign and independent and able to govern and secure itself."