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Biden brings down curtain on US Iraq operations (VIDEO)

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"Because of you ... and the work those of you in uniform have done, we are now able to end this war," said Biden. "We learned in over eight years in Iraq that this country's independent spirit is stitched into its national fabric.... The Iraqi people have not and will not yield again to any kind of external domination."

Biden said the foundation had been laid for an Iraq that, "against all odds, can serve as a source of stability not only for its people, but here in the region, and for year to come."

Biden added that "it's fair to say, almost no one thought that was possible a few years ago."

Home by Christmas?

The remaining 13,800 US troops in Iraq are exiting in coming weeks, and all will depart the seven remaining bases – down from a high of some 171,000 troops on 500 bases – by an end-of-year deadline.

Even as officials sought to close this chapter, reminders of the dangers facing Iraq were clear: 18 people were killed in Diyala Province today, most victims of a car bomb.

Mr. Talabani, a pro-US Kurdish politician, thanked American forces as "friends" who changed history for the better, and far beyond Iraq's borders. He sought to cast the US role in Iraq as a critical forerunner to the people-power Arab Spring revolutions that have so far this year toppled three dictatorial regimes, in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

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