BAGHDAD (Reuters) - At the peak of the United States's war in Iraq, the U.S. military had more than 170,000 troops, 500 bases replete with tents and toilets, kitchens and motor pools, and an airline that flew hundreds of times a day across the country.

Moving day has lasted more than a year.

The U.S. withdrawal from Iraq after nearly nine years of war is believed to be one of the largest removal jobs in history. At the start of the year logistics experts calculated there were nearly 3 million pieces of equipment to be moved, from airplanes, helicopters and tanks to laptops and lights.

"It is the largest move of military equipment we have done sinceWorld War Two," said Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Brooks, a U.S. military historian.

Soldiers, trucks and weaponry are streaming out of Iraq every day. From that peak of 170,000 troops, about 18,000 remain this week, with hundreds leaving daily. Virtually all will be gone before Christmas.

Since September 2010, around 2 million pieces of equipment have been redeployed, U.S. officials say, some back to the United States, others toAfghanistan or other locations.

By September 1, the clutter had been reduced to about 20,000 truckloads. This week, about 9,000 truckloads remained.

"It's not as glamorous as it was when you're out on patrol in a village, helping some young Iraqi, or building a school or capturing a terrorist. But it's historic," said Brigadier General Bradley Becker of the move out.

"Someday I truly believe that future military classes ... will study the logistics (of our) move out of Iraq."


Closing down theIraq war has meant shutting down the U.S. military bases, which numbered 505 at the peak and included everything from small desert fueling depots to massive installations where Americans have been entrenched for years.

The Victory Base complex in Baghdad, the heart of the war operation surrounded by 42 km (27 miles) of concrete blast walls and razor wire, once hosted 40,000 troops and more than 20,000 contractors. Balad, north of Baghdad, had 36,000 residents.

Victory was so big it had a reverse osmosis water plant that could generate 1.85 million gallons a day, an ice plant, a 50-megawatt power generating station, stadium-sized chow halls and a laundromat with 3,000 machines able to do 36,000 loads a day.

Now the generals have moved from Saddam's missile-damaged palaces, the war operations room has been cleared of computers and phones and the barber shops, DVD stores and restaurants likeBurger King, Subway and Green Bean are fast disappearing.


For years, in U.S. air terminals across Iraq, on flat-screen monitors or white boards, generals and soldiers, journalists and contractors watched for flight information to BIAP (Baghdad International Airport), Tikrit, Mosul or other destinations.

Between combat, medical evacuations and ferry service, the U.S. intra-Iraq airline flew scores of times every day.

At the peak in 2009, there more than 400 aircraft which flew daily, Brooks said.

"The MNC-I Aviation brigade averaged 157 missions a day. We had 28 helicopters devoted to just flying passengers around Iraq on scheduled flights."