Panetta stepped off his military plane in Baghdad Thursday as the leader of America's war in Iraq, but will leave as one of many top U.S. and global officials who hope to work with the struggling nation as it tries to find its new place in the Middle East and the broader world.
The U.S. Forces-Iraq flag was furled - or wrapped - around a flagpole and covered in camouflage. It will be brought back to the United States.
During several stops in Afghanistan this week, Panetta made it clear that the U.S. can be proud of its accomplishments in Iraq.
That, he said, is "a tribute to everybody - everybody who fought in that war, everybody who spilled blood in that war, everybody who was dedicated to making sure we could achieve that mission."