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World News

December 19, 2011

Last troops exit Iraq in subdued end to 9-year war

(Continued)

In the last days at Camp Adder, the remaining few hundred troops tied up all the loose ends of a war, or at least those that could be tied up.

The soldiers at the base spoke often of the "lasts" — the last guard duty, the last meal in Iraq, the last patrol briefing. Even the last Friday was special until it was eclipsed by the last Saturday.

Spc. Brittany Hampton laid claim to one of the most memorable "lasts." She rode the last vehicle of the last convoy of American troops leaving Iraq.

Hampton was thinking of her dad, also a soldier who has served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I can't wait to ... call my dad and tell him about this," she said. "He's not going to believe it. He's going to be so proud of me."

She joked that no one was going to believe her back home when she told them she was in the very last vehicle to leave.

"But we really, truly were the last soldiers in Iraq. So it's pretty awesome," she said.

In the final days, U.S. officials acknowledged the cost in blood and treasure was high, but tried to paint it as a victory — for both the troops and the Iraqi people now freed of a dictator and on a path to democracy. But gnawing questions remain: Will Iraqis be able to forge their new government amid the still stubborn sectarian clashes? And will Iraq be able to defend itself and remain independent in a region fraught with turmoil and still steeped in insurgent threats?

President Barack Obama stopped short of calling the U.S. effort in Iraq a victory.

"I would describe our troops as having succeeded in the mission of giving to the Iraqis their country in a way that gives them a chance for a successful future," Obama said in an interview with ABC News' Barbara Walters, recorded Thursday.

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