It’s over. Eight years, eight months and 25 days after the war in Iraq began, American troops will be home just before the holidays.

View Photo Gallery: The eight-year U.S. military operation in Iraq, now winding down with the withdrawal of the last U.S. forces, produced these enduring images.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta in a quiet ceremony in Baghdad Thursday paid tribute to an “independent, free and sovereign Iraq” and declared the official end to the war.

“After a lot of blood spilled by Iraqis and Americans, the mission of an Iraq that could govern and secure itself has become real,” Panetta said. “To be sure, the cost was high — in blood and treasure for the United States, and for the Iraqi people. Those lives were not lost in vain.”

Not all Iraqis feel the same. As the Post’s Liz Sly and Craig Whitlock report, thousands of people in the town of Fallujah celebrated the U.S. troops withdrawal by burning American and Israeli flags.

For some Iraqis, the withdrawal will have little immediate impact on their lives. U.S. troops pulled out of the cities in 2009 and halted combat operations in 2010.

One resident, 32-year-old Bashar al-Nadeq, expressed fears of new sectarian violence. “What’s the point of lighting a candle at the beginning of a tunnel when you know you will be walking in darkness?” he asked. “I am happy they are going, but I know my happiness won’t last for long.”

More than 1 million U.S. service members have fought the war in Iraq since 2003. More than 100,000 Iraqi and 4,487 American lives were lost in the war. At the Post’s Faces of the Fallen, find information about each U.S. service member who has died as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the following video, look back on the key moments in the Iraq war, from shock and awe in 2003 and the capture of Saddam Hussein to the final withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011.

Read more coverage on the war in Iraq:

Iraq 2003-2011: Post coverage through the years

Iraq war draws to quiet close

All U.S. troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2011

State Department readies Iraq operation

Ground War Starts in Iraq

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