Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited Baghdad on Thursday to preside over a ceremony in which the U.S. Forces-Iraq flag was retired, which means that America’s nine-year occupation of Iraq has ended — at least on paper. What will actually happen with regard to the two nations’ relations is a bit different, as the Associated Press detailed that day.

Meanwhile, here are the latest numbers from Iraq Body Count, casting a different light on Panetta’s statement quoted below. –KA

AP via Time:

During several stops in Afghanistan this week, Panetta made it clear that the U.S. can be proud of its accomplishments in Iraq.

“We spilled a lot of blood there,” Panetta said. “But all of that has not been in vain. It’s been to achieve a mission making that country sovereign and independent and able to govern and secure itself.”

That, he said, is “a tribute to everybody — everybody who fought in that war, everybody who spilled blood in that war, everybody who was dedicated to making sure we could achieve that mission.”

Panetta echoed President Barack Obama’s promise that the U.S. plans to keep a robust diplomatic presence in Iraq, foster a deep and lasting relationship with the nation and maintain a strong military force in the region.

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