4,500 troops poorer: US lowers flag on Iraq campaign (VIDEO)

The US wraps up its official military campaign in Iraq on Thursday. An official ceremony to lower the American flag in Baghdad was attended by top US and Iraqi officers.

Head of Pentagon Leon Panetta said Americans are leaving the Middle-Eastern country “with lasting pride” as Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani and his generals were taking over command.

Some 4,000 American troops remain in Iraq, but they are expected to return home by year’s end. After that, only around 150 US soldiers will be attached to the US embassy.

The task of training Iraqi security forces will be carried out by private military companies.

The US invaded Iraq in March 2003 on the pretext that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction that could target Europe and had failed to cooperate with international inspectors searching for the weapons.

The nine-year war took the lives of more than 4,500 of American soldiers and about 500 of their allies’ troops. The death toll among Iraqis is difficult to estimate, but is put at between 60,000 and 100,000 people.

Saddam’s alleged WMDs have never been found.