BAGHDAD - The US military returned its biggest base in Iraq to the government on Friday, a huge compound near Baghdad airport that housed the American war operations center and hosted a captive Saddam Hussein before his execution.
Victory Base Complex, a site ringed by 42 kilometres (27 miles) of blast walls and razor wire, was the US command center for the Iraq war almost from the moment American troops entered the capital and pulled down Saddam's statue in 2003.
The handover of Victory Base marks a major milestone in the US withdrawal from Iraq as Washington consolidates its presence in Baghdad at its huge embassy on the Tigris River in the capital's heavily fortified Green Zone.
Only 12,000 troops remain, down from a peak of about 170,000 at the height of the war. Almost all of the remaining forces are due to leave Iraq by the end of this year, except for a small contingent of under 200 attached to the US embassy.