U.S. combat troops are on the move in the Middle East, but they're not going into battle. In fact, they're on their way back to the U.S.
The last American combat brigade in Iraq is on its way home.
"It's good to get to this point,” said 1st Sgt. Mark Ohme, 9th Infantry, 4th Brigade. “Of course everybody's excited."
Thousands of soldiers from the 4th Stryker Brigade rolled into Kuwait early Wednesday morning more than seven years after the U.S. invasion began.
"Finally getting out and realizing that this could be the last time I wear that kit in awhile is a nice feeling," said PFC Timothy Berrena, 2nd Infantry, 4th Brigade.
While the pullout is well ahead of President Obama's August 31st deadline, Operation Iraqi Freedom isn't officially over yet.
The Pentagon says another 6,000 combat troops won't leave until the end of the month. Even then, 50,000 non-combat troops will stay in Iraq until next year.
"Our commitment in Iraq is changing from a military effort led by troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats," said the president.
Meeting the August deadline means President Obama is on target to fulfill one of his many campaign promises. He vowed to have all U.S. forces out of Iraq by 2011.
But what happens to Iraq after the U.S. leaves remains unclear. Just Monday a suicide blast at an Iraqi military recruitment center killed 61 people and injured more than 100 others.
Political instability is also a big concern. Iraq has yet to form a new government.
"If this allows Iraq to kind of get back on good footing and to export oil and to do the things that Iraq becomes a part of the worldwide global community then we really have succeeded in the seven-and-a-half years we've been there,” said Mike Lyons, CBS News Military Analyst.
But those years came with a price.
4, 415 American troops were killed, sacrifices these soldiers will remember long after they've returned home.
|Get the ingredients you need to cook with Rach all week long.|
|Full length exclusive concerts from hot artists.|
|Take a break!
Classic Pacman, Frogger, Asteroids and more.
Sell almost anything locally.