British military ends its 8-year mission in Iraq

British operations in Iraq are officially ending, more than eight years after the country joined the U.S.-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.

Most British troops left the country in 2009, but a small naval force remained to train Iraqi sailors. That Royal Navy mission ends on Sunday.

The British commander in Iraq, Brig. Max Marriner, said "the Iraqi Navy are ready, so now is the time for the U.K. to dress back and let them complete the mission they were created for."

British Defense Secretary Liam Fox paid tribute to the 179 British personnel who have died in Iraq since 2003.

The decision of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair to join the Iraq war was unpopular in Britain, sparking some of the largest demonstrations in a generation.