THE BRONX - The United States military is lowering the American flag in Baghdad today as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta officially ends the nearly nine-year war in Iraq.

The flag will be retired during a ceremony, and the final troops will be heading back home by Dec. 31. Panetta says the war was worth the cost in blood and dollars because Iraq is on a path toward democracy.

U.S. troops first invaded the country in March 2003 and more than 4,000 soldiers were killed.