It’s a bit odd to discuss the last combat teams leaving Iraq when the 50,000 “advisers” will still have guns and combat training and the ability to support Iraqi security forces when needed. But this is the schedule that was laid out even before Barack Obama became President, and he followed it to the letter, even a couple weeks early, in fact.

The last U.S. combat troops crossed the border into Kuwait on Thursday morning, bringing to a close the active combat phase of a 7½-year war that overthrew the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein, forever defined the presidency of George W. Bush and left more than 4,400 American service members and tens of thousands of Iraqis dead […]

“We are done with operations,” Lt. Steven DeWitt of San Jose, Calif., said as his vehicle reached Khabari Crossing on the border.

“This was a professional soldier’s job,” he said, describing “a war that has defined this generation of military men and women.

“And today it’s over,” he said.

It’s over and it should never have began. We went to war under false pretenses, for selfish reasons, and without any semblance of a plan. We stumbled into Baghdad expecting flowers and sweets. We left 4,400 men and women for no discernible reason (UPDATE: Not to mention the hundreds, not tens, of thousands of Iraqis), for a war and occupation that didn’t make us safer. We sparked a civil war that still simmers under the surface. And today it’s over, to quote the soldier up top.

Only it’s not over. As State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told MSNBC, “We have a long-term commitment to Iraq.” Even after the troops and the military advisers leave by the end of 2011 – and I do believe fully that they will – American civilians and private contractors will play a large role.

As the United States military prepares to leave Iraq by the end of 2011, the Obama administration is planning a remarkable civilian effort, buttressed by a small army of contractors, to fill the void.

By October 2011, the State Department will assume responsibility for training the Iraqi police, a task that will largely be carried out by contractors. With no American soldiers to defuse sectarian tensions in northern Iraq, it will be up to American diplomats in two new $100 million outposts to head off potential confrontations between the Iraqi Army and Kurdish pesh merga forces.

To protect the civilians in a country that is still home to insurgents with Al Qaeda and Iranian-backed militias, the State Department is planning to more than double its private security guards, up to as many as 7,000, according to administration officials who disclosed new details of the plan. Defending five fortified compounds across the country, the security contractors would operate radars to warn of enemy rocket attacks, search for roadside bombs, fly reconnaissance drones and even staff quick reaction forces to aid civilians in distress, the officials said.

So we’re trading the US military for DynCorp. And that’s not even good enough for some of those named in the article, who want “strategic patience” and a continued military presence beyond 2011 (the Obama Administration plan calls for “several dozen to several hundred officers in an embassy office who would help the Iraqis purchase and field new American military equipment” – we’re not going to let an opportunity go by to sell some weapons of war, after all).

So far, the President has resisted those calls, despite a chaotic political situation with no government for going on five months. America has had trouble leaving their wars. Some men and women, it always seems, get left behind. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.

David Dayen

David Dayen