Iraqi-Kuwaiti border—The last US troops rolled across the Kuwaiti border here just before 8:00 a.m. local time on Sunday, completing the phased withdrawal of the US military from Iraq and the end of its mission there after nearly nine years. It took a little over four hours for all 110 vehicles—mostly heavily armored trucks and multi-purpose armored vehicles—and 500 troops to cross the border. The barren desert and barbed wire fences provided the backdrop for the celebratory mood as soldiers waved from turrets and some drivers honked in honor of a mission that is finally complete. US and Kuwaiti soldiers shook hands and posed for pictures as the gate closed behind the last vehicle. “It was a day full of emotions and a day to remember,” said Lt. Gen. David Goldfein, US Air Forces Central commander, at a ceremony following the border crossing. Two joint terminal attack controllers who were embedded with the soldiers were the last airmen to leave Iraq, but JTACs also flew in aircraft above so they could bridge any communication gap that might occur along the route, said Col. Claude Tudor, who commanded the 368th Expeditionary Air Support Operations Group until its inactivation later on Sunday (see below). MQ-1 Predators and F-16 fighters also provided air cover and an Air Force quick reaction force staged out of Kuwait in case something went wrong. (See also US military Predator video feed of convoy making border crossing.)
As the Pentagon increasingly pivots its focus to strategic competition with China, the U.S. will look to expand its partnership with South Korea to increase security across the entire Indo-Pacific region, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said Dec. 2 during a visit to the northeastern Asian nation.