Australia ends combat operations in Iraq, pulls out troops

Australia, a staunch US ally and one of the first countries to commit troops to the Iraq war five years ago, has ended combat operations there, the Department of Defense said. On Sunday, the soldiers lowered the Australian flag that had flown over Camp Terendak in the southern Iraqi city of Talil, marking an end to their service there. The combat troops were expected to return to Australia over the next few weeks, with the first of them arriving home Sunday afternoon. The move fulfills a campaign promise of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who was swept into office in November largely on the promise that he would bring home the country's 550 combat troops by the middle of 2008.