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Nearing the End of the Iraq War

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With one month left until American troops are scheduled to completely withdraw from Iraq, the draw-down process is in full gear, but the future for a still-recovering, still-violent Iraq remains uncertain. Since coalition forces first invaded Iraq in March 2003, more than 4,400 Americans have lost their lives and some 32,000 have been wounded. Estimates of violent civilian deaths -- caused by warfare, insurgent attacks, inter-tribal conflict and more -- range into the hundreds of thousands. As the new Iraqi government still struggles to meet the needs of its citizens, it now faces the challenge of defending its borders in a very volatile region. Although all American troops are scheduled to leave by the end of 2011, the U.S. military will continue limited counterterrorism training with Iraqi forces beyond the end of the year, and about 16,000 U.S. embassy personnel will remain in Iraq -- many of them civilian contractors handling security. Collected here are recent images of Iraq -- its people, the U.S. draw-down, and some of the continuing aftermath of the war. [41 photos]

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Sgt. 1st Class Justin Hathaway braves a sandstorm after leaving the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Iraq and U.S. Forces-Iraq Provost Marshal Office at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, on September 27, 2011. (Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo/USAF)
Sgt. 1st Class Justin Hathaway braves a sandstorm after leaving the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Iraq and U.S. Forces-Iraq Provost Marshal Office at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, on September 27, 2011. (Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo/USAF)
Soldiers with the 1452nd Combat Heavy Equipment Transportation Company, North Carolina Army National Guard, load an M1 Abrams tank onto the bed of a super heavy equipment transporter tractor-trailer on Contingency Operating Base Adder, on November 4, 2011. The 1452nd loaded two of the 60-ton tanks to transport to Kuwait in support of the U.S. Forces drawdown in Iraq. (Pvt. Andrew Slovensky/U.S. Army) #
U.S. soldiers begin their journey home at al-Asad airbase, west of Baghdad, Iraq, on November 1, 2011. Gen. Lloyd Austin The top American general in Iraq said Monday that al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups might seek to strengthen their operations after American forces leave at the end of the year. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File) #
A U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter flies over the city of Baghdad, Iraq, on November 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) #
An Iraqi woman rides on a donkey as another follows close by, as they skirt a huge concrete blast wall protecting an Iraqi army camp, in the Ghazaliya district of Baghdad, on August 30, 2011. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images) #
A worker repairs an oil pipeline at Rumaila oil fields, near the southern city of Basra, Iraq, on October 9, 2011. A pair of bombs struck two oil pipelines on Friday in southern Iraq, causing a temporary cut in production at the country's largest oil field, officials said. (AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani) #
U.S. Army Lt. Christopher Chavez, 28, from Sacramento, California, center, and Staff Sgt. Michael Snyder, left, 35, from Glendale, Arizona, of D Company, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, search a Saddam Hussein-era military vehicle graveyard outside Contingency Operating Site Taji, north of Baghdad, on August 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo) #
A female taxi driver fetches a passenger in Arbil, about 350 km (220 miles) north of Baghdad, on November 19, 2011. Inspired by the success stories of the ladies' taxis services in Lebanon and Dubai, 25-year old civil engineer Lana Khoshabaan has recently started an all-women taxi firm, in the Kurdish city of Arbil. The black cars, imprinted with the words "PNK TAXI" are dispatched upon calls to pick up female passengers from all parts of Arbil. Currently, only three cars are in operation on two shifts daily. (Reuters/Azad Lashkari) #
An Iraqi man checks the many electricity wires attached to a pylon as the capital endures another stifling summer with only a few hours of electricity a day, on August 7, 2011. (Sabah Arar/AFP/Getty Images) #
People celebrate after the Iraqi national soccer team beat Jordan in the World Cup qualifying match, in Karradah, downtown Baghdad, on November 15, 2011. Iraq won 3-1. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban) #
U.S. soldiers rest in the shade of armored vehicles at a courtyard at Camp Liberty in Baghdad, on September 30, 2011. (Reuters/Mohammed Ameen) #
Humvees sit parked in a courtyard at Camp Liberty in Baghdad, on September 30, 2011. (Reuters/Mohammed Ameen) #
Residents play at a bowling hall in Iraq's northern province of Arbil, on September 25. While most Iraqis struggle under the detritus of a seven-year war, the people of Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan can frolic in a public pool, ride an elevated cable car over freshly planted parkland or escape stifling heat in a new ice skating hall. The new luxuries of Iraq's northern Kurdish region seem a world apart from the dust and grit of Baghdad, where suicide bombers are an everyday fear, dirt-gray blast walls dominate a war-weary cityscape. (Reuters/Azad Lashkari) #
A man inspects the scene of a bomb attack in Kerbala, Iraq, on September 25, 2011. A series of blasts hit a Shiite holy city in Iraq on Sunday, killing and wounding scores of people, police and hospital officials said. (AP Photo/Ahmed al-Husseini) #
An Iraqi man runs with an injured child following an explosion in the central Iraqi shrine city of Kerbala, on September 25, 2011, as multiple blasts at a passport and identity card office killed at least nine people, part of nationwide violence that left 12 dead. (Mohammed Sawaf/AFP/Getty Images) #
Mourners carry the coffins of slain Shiite pilgrims during their funeral in the holy city of Karbala, on September 13, 2011. The victims were killed when gunmen forced their way onto a bus of traveling Shiite pilgrims Monday and shot all 22 men aboard as they traveled through western Iraq's remote desert on a trip to a holy shrine, security officials said. (AP Photo/Ahmed al-Husseini) #
Copies of the Quran, Muslims holy book, splattered with blood, at Um al-Qura mosque in Baghdad, Iraq, on August 29, 2011. A suicide bomber blew himself up inside Baghdad's largest Sunni mosque, killing dozens during prayers, a shocking strike on a place of worship similar to the one that brought Iraq to the brink of civil war five years before. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) #
U.S. soldiers tour Al-Faw palace within Victory Base Compound before it is handed over to the Iraqi government in Baghdad, on November 7, 2011. (Reuters/Saad Shalash) #
Abdulrazaq Al-Aboudy paints in his studio in an artist's market on July 26, 2011, in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraqi painters have long held a prominent place in Iraqi society painting on commission and for sale in galleries throughout the Middle East. The market is beginning to flourish again as violence in the capital has stabilized allowing for galleries to reopen and for more money to move into the country. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #
Two girls wait for their father's arrival from his deployment with the Headquarters Battalion from the 25th Infantry Lightning Brigade in Iraq to Schofield Barracks, in Wahiawa, Hawaii, on November 21, 2011, as part of the gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. (Reuters/Hugh Gentry) #
Bryan Anderson talks about his new book titled "No Turning Back," at his home in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, on October 31, 2011. His story details enlisting with the Army and receiving a deployment date of September 11, 2001, serving two tours in Iraq as a sergeant in the military police, driving over a roadside bomb in his Humvee in October 2005, and recovering for 13 months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he was one of the few triple amputees to survive. (AP Photo/Daily Herald, Bob Chwedyk) #
Inside the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C., a gold AK-47 assault rifle and sniper rifle that once belonged to former Iraq President Saddam Hussein sit in a display case on Thursday, September 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen) #
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 79th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron provides cover for U.S. forces as they transition personnel and equipment out of Iraq, on November 9, 2011. (Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo/USAF) #
U.S. Army Pvt. 1st Class David Hedge from Bealeton, Virginia, front, and fellow soldiers from 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment are bathed in rotor wash moments after arriving by Blackhawk helicopter for an operation to disrupt weapons smuggling in Istaqlal, north of Baghdad, Iraq, on August 8, 2011. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo) #
Residents visit the Spiral Minaret of the Great Mosque in Samarra, 100 km (62 miles) north of Baghdad, on August 30, 2011. (Reuters/Stringer) #
Ahmed Razak, 31, works at a blacksmith shop in Baghdad, on November 12, 2011. Razak earns about 9 US dollars per day. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban) #
Iranian goods are displayed at a shop in Baghdad, on November 6, 2011. Iran's presence is already visible in Iraq, from the droves of pilgrims at Shiite holy sites to the brands of yogurt and jams on grocery shelves. But now Iraqis are bracing for a potential escalation of Persian influence as the U.S. military leaves at the end of the year. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim) #
Iraqi security forces display suspected insurgents to the public after detaining the suspected insurgents in Kerbala, on September 15, 2011. About eight suspected insurgents were arrested during a raid operation in the nearby province of Anbar on Thursday, a police source said. (Reuters/Stringer) #
An Iraqi Army M1A1 Abrams tank, purchased from the U.S., maneuvers during a live fire exercise outside Baghdad, on October 18, 2011. With the U.S. military scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of the year, the Iraqi security forces will be solely responsible for providing security for the country. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) #
Russian tourists sit on a boat as they travel through the marshlands in Basra, on October 12, 2011. Nine Russian tourists visited Basra, an official at Basra province said. Foreign tourists have visited Iraq, part of a region known as the cradle of civilization, from time to time after decades of war and the peak of sectarian violence in 2006-07, although bombings and killings still take place daily. (Reuters/Atef Hassan) #
Saadia Hamid bathes her two-year old twin daughters Fatema Abbas, left, Zainab Abbas, right, in Baghdad, on July 23, 2011. (AP Photo / Hadi Mizban) #
An Iraqi man inspects damages at the Mar Afram Syriac Orthodox Church following an explosion in the northern city of Kirkuk, on August 15, 2011 as a series of nationwide attacks hit the country. At least 41 people were killed and 90 wounded in a spate of violence across Iraq, just months ahead of a pullout of US forces. (Marwan Ibrahim/AFP/Getty Images) #
An Iraqi boy is taken away from a suspected militant, who has been accused of killing his father at the height of the sectarian slaughter in 2006-07, during a presentation to the media at the Interior Ministry in Baghdad, on November 21, 2011. A total of 22 suspected militants were presented to the media on Monday as they await their trial, according to the police. (Reuters/Saad Shalash) #
Vessels are docked at the Al-Basra terminal in southern Iraq, on September 28, 2011. Iraq expects to turn on the tap at one of three new oil export terminals in the Gulf on January 1, 2012, a major milestone in its effort to build export capacity to handle increasing output from southern oilfields. (Reuters/Atef Hassan) #
A contract worker picks recyclable items from trash at U.S. military base Kalsu on July 18, 2011 in Iskandariya, Iraq. Preparations for the drawdown of troops at the base are ongoing with clean-ups, packing and the shipping of items back to the United States. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #
1st Lt. Mark Lowett, Marine Corps Martial Arts instructor assigned to Iraqi Marine Training Team Three, performs a preliminary visual inspection of vehicles prior to their departure from Umm Qasr to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, on October 14, 2011. The 13 members of the training team were the last Marines in Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn. Major operations in Iraq for the Marine Corps ended in 2010. (Cpl. Lucas Vega/USMC) #
Mustafa Mohammed, born only ten minutes before, is surrounded by his family at a maternity hospital sponsored by the Iraqi Red Crescent Society in Baghdad, Iraq, on October 30, 2011. According to Iraq's Health Ministry, Iraq witnesses the birth of more than one million children every year. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) #
Sgt. Aaron Grudich of Oakfield, Wisconsin, walks back to the car with his family after returning from Iraq at the West Bend Armory, on November 19, 2011, in West Bend, Wisconsin. Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 135th General Aviation Support Battalion returned home from Iraq. After 51 weeks, the last Wisconsin National Guard Unit returned home. (AP Photo/West Bend Daily News, John Ehlke) #
A transfer case containing the remains of Army Spc. David E. Hickman sits on a loader during a prayer at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, on November 16, 2011. According to the Department of Defense, Hickman, 23, of Greensboro, North Carolina, died November 14, 2011 in Baghdad, Iraq of injuries sustained after encountering an improvised explosive device. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark) #
Iraq War veteran Brad Hammond holds the hand of his 18-month-old son Cooper at a softball game, on September 23, 2011 in Lakewood, Colorado. Seven years after returning home from a year-long deployment in Tal Afar, Iraq, Hammond continues to experience severe post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and the effects of traumatic brain injuries he sustained in combat. He suffers from chronic anxiety, headaches, night terrors, hallucinations and frequent bouts of aggression and cannot hold down a full time job. He helps his wife Dani care for their three children, while also taking a private mentoring classes to help improve his attention and cognitive skills. Hammond was on a team of U.S. soldiers who opened fire on a carload of Iraqi civilians on January 18, 2005 in Tal Afar, Iraq, killing two, when they did not stop at a checkpoint. (John Moore/Getty Images) #
The scarred hands of 12-year-old Iraqi Khitam Hamad, as she participates in a class with other young victims of Iraq violence at a program operated by Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), on July 28, 2011 in Amman, Jordan. Khitam, who is from the city of Fallujah, was severely burned following a car bomb when she was walking with her sister. MSF has been running a reconstructive-surgery program for war-wounded Iraqis since August 2006. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #

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