After nine years, 4,500 American dead and 100,000 Iraqi dead, the USA on Thursday formally ended the war in Iraq as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the it was worth the American sacrifice, because it set Iraq on a path to democracy.
In addition to the dead, the war left 32,000 Americans injured and cost the U.S. more than $800 billion.
Panetta and several other U.S. diplomatic, military and defense leaders participated Thursday in a symbolic ceremony during which the flag of U.S. Forces-Iraq was officially retired.
"You will leave with great pride -- lasting pride," Panetta told the troops. "Secure in knowing that your sacrifice has helped the Iraqi people to begin a new chapter in history."
Panetta echoed President Barack Obama's promise that Washington intends to keep a robust diplomatic presence in Iraq, foster a deep and lasting relationship with the nation and maintain a strong military force in the region.