Civilians, Contractors to Fill Void in Iraq

Mission accomplished? The last U.S. combat troops left Iraq early Thursday morning, ending the active combat of the seven-and-a-half-year war. The final convoy of the Army’s 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, based out of Fort Lewis, Washington, entered Kuwait at 1:30 a.m. local time, carrying the last of the 14,000 U.S. combat forces in Iraq. One soldier in the departing brigade shouted, “We won! We won! It’s over! We brought democracy to Iraq!” while another simply said, “It feels awesome” to leave. The timing of the departure had been a closely guarded secret, though President Barack Obama had set August 31 as the deadline for all combat forces to be removed. Some 50,000 “advisers” will remain in the country in a non-combat role to provide support and training for Iraqi military. The State Department will take over training Iraqi police as part of a massive civilian effort to fill the void left by the troops. In Northern Iraq, diplomats in two $100 million posts will have to manage confrontations between the Kurdish pesh merga and the Iraqi Army. The state department is also doubling the number of private security guards to as many as 7,000. Former state officials say the department has never operated independently on this scale.