Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki declared a new dawn on Saturday as Iraq celebrated the departure of American troops at a ceremony held amid tight security and without Maliki’s key political rivals…
Saturday marked the end of the 2008 security pact agreed by then-President George W. Bush and was the last day for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq, nearly nine years after the invasion that toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein and allowed the Shi’ite majority to take power.
Except for a small military contingent attached to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, the last of the American troops departed nearly two weeks ago.
“I declare this day, the 31st of December, on which the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq is complete, as a national day,” said Maliki in a televised ceremony, surrounded by security officials in dress uniforms.
“It is Iraq’s day. It is a feast for all Iraqis. It is the dawn of a new day in Mesopotamia … Your country is free.”
Maliki said he would work to maintain freedom and “respect political, intellectual and religious diversity…”