US exit from Iraq: ‘this is not a withdrawal, this is an act on a stage’

Iraqi people greet pullout ceremony with ambivalence mixed with concern over an uncertain future

US soldiers hold the US and Iraqi flags

US soldiers hold the US and Iraqi flags during the symbolic flag-lowering ceremony marking the end of the US mission in Iraq. Photograph: Ali Al-Saadi/AFP/Getty Images

There was no triumphalism and certainly no shock or awe. The end of the war in Iraq was subdued and simple: a small band playing as the US forces flag was furled with 200 troops watching on quietly.

In a makeshift parade ground in a corner of Baghdad airport, time was called on the war just after 1pm on Thursday, eight years, eight months and 26 days after its far more dramatic opening in March 2003. Nearby a plane was waiting to take home the US high command. And in southern Iraq, the 4,000 US troops who remain were steadily streaming towards Kuwait.

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