Marking the end of the nearly nine-year war, President Obama today welcomed home the top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. Lloyd Austin, and witnessed the return of the command flag that flew over Baghdad.
"It is great to be back in the United States of America," Austin said in an understated ceremony at Joint Base Andrews. "We have honored our commitment and our military-led mission has come to a successful conclusion, and today I am proud to safely return our colors to their rightful place, the United States of America."
While the president did not deliver formal remarks, both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden greeted Austin and his top command staff on the tarmac.
With his commander-in-chief sitting close by, Austin praised the troops who served in Iraq and highlighted their successes. "I could not be more proud of our men and women in uniform who are unquestionably the pre-eminent military force in the world," he said. "What our troops achieved in Iraq over the course of nearly nine years is truly remarkable. Together with our coalition partners and core of dedicated civilians, they removed a brutal dictator and gave the Iraqi people their freedom."
Today's event came only two days after the last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq. "Today, we bring home the colors to United States soil, at the same time we embrace many of our own back into the fold just in time for the holidays," chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said. "Welcome home."