The last U.S. combat brigade pulled out of Iraq last week, leaving about 50,000 troops in the war-battered country.

Military operations will now focus on training Iraqis and supervising the transition to an Iraqi-led security force. As Operation Iraqi Freedom shifts to Operation New Dawn, many wonder what the implications will be for Iraq and the United States.

The war — which started almost eight years ago and cost more than 4,400 lives — has dwindled in the past year and a half, with more than 90,000 troops coming home.

With a campaign promise to end combat operations in Iraq by the end of August 2010, President Barack Obama saw military forces leave the country ahead of schedule.

Shoppers interviewed by the Press-Republican at the Champlain Centre mall Sunday weighed in on the recent troop withdrawal and what could possibly mark the beginning of the end of the Iraq War.

Peru resident Brad Mclaughlin, 45, said he is happy about America's combat mission in Iraq ending but hopes the country will not revert to the way it was.

The announcement that the United States will only be playing a supervisory and training role in the country does not signal a real end, Mclaughlin said.

"Its going to continue," he said of our presence in Iraq. "I wouldn't say it would be a war any longer."

Leaving the area will greatly decrease American influence in the region, leaving it open for other countries to move in and take advantage of a weakened Iraq, Mclaughlin said.

"There are still a lot of issues."

Plattsburgh resident Nicole Charland, 27, agreed, saying that this move would not mark the end of the war.

"I don't think (it's the end)."

She said, however, it is definitely a step in the right direction.

Burlington resident Jim Goodell, 33, said the troop withdrawal should have been done a long time ago, but he believes there are still reasons to worry about pulling out of the country now.

"Something will always happen," Goodell said, and "the smallest thing" could create a new wave of violence in Iraq. "I think it will probably revert after we take the troops back."

Matthew Prall, 25, a Florida resident vacationing in Plattsburgh, said the troop withdrawal should have been done awhile ago, but now it's pointless to think about "what ifs."

His wife, Meghan Prall, said the troops shouldn't be in Iraq at all.

Mr. Prall said if nothing else the withdrawal should not be done all at once.

"You have to pull out slow."

Otherwise, he said, the country could return to the extreme violence it had seen just years ago.

Plattsburgh resident Bruce Barber, 60, agreed.

Barber said the pullout was necessary, and debating over timing is irrelevant.

"I don't think there is any good time (to pull out)," he said.

Adam Naurath, 25, of Plattsburgh said now is not the right time to be withdrawing our troops.

If Iraq was more stable, it would be fine to leave the country to the Iraqis, he said.

"There could be better ways to handle this."

Still, Barber said, the U.S. presence may leave a positive legacy for the country. Programs that never existed are available for Iraqi citizens, and if a democratic government could become stable in the area, it could mean real progress for the Middle East, he said.

The ultimate fate of America's presence in Iraq is unknown, Barber said.

"Who knows?"

Recommended for you