Panetta to Iraq for ceremony ending US mission

AP News
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Posted: Dec 15, 2011 1:51 AM
Panetta to Iraq for ceremony ending US mission

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is en route to Iraq, where he will participate in a ceremony to shut down the U.S. military mission there after nearly nine years of war.

Panetta is also scheduled to participate in a question-and-answer session with U.S. troops, and hold a press conference with the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. Lloyd Austin.

All U.S. troops are to be out of Iraq Dec. 31, though President Barack Obama has pledged the U.S. will continue civilian assistance for Iraq as it faces an uncertain future.

On Wednesday, Obama saluted troops who had already returned from Iraq. "The war in Iraq will soon belong to history, and your service belongs to the ages," Obama told troops at Fort Bragg, N.C.