Strains on Display: No Iraqi Leaders Attend U.S. End-of-War Ceremony in Baghdad

Susan Jones | December 15, 2011 | 6:28am EST
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Fox News Correspondent Jennifer Griffin reports that only a handful of Iraqis were on hand Thursday as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and U.S. military leaders formally ended the Iraq war with a subdued ceremony in Baghdad. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki did not attend the ceremony at which the flag of U.S. Forces-Iraq was officially retired.

"You will leave with great pride -- lasting pride -- 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," Panetta told U.S. troops. But even as a U.S. military band played a medley of patriotic American tunes, the ceremony -- televised live in the 5 a.m. EST hour -- seemed one-sided without Iraqi participation or even a thank-you.

Almost nine years of fighting in Iraq leaves 4,500 Americans dead and 32,000 wounded, according to the Associated Press tally. The cost to the U.S. -- more than $800 billion. But it was worth it, Panetta says:

"We spilled a lot of blood there," the defense secretary said earlier this week. "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."

The BBC reported that in the city of Falluja on Wednesday, Iraqis burned U.S. flags to celebrate the war's end. Some Iraqis say the U.S. did not live up to its promise to leave behind a secure and stable Iraq.

U.S. officials were unable to reach an agreement with the Iraqis on immunity for U.S. troops that would have allowed a small training and counterterrorism force to remain in the country.

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