Out of Iraq

United States involvement in the Iraq war will end on Aug. 31, 2010, roughly 18 months from today. So decreed President Barack Obama in an announcement made last Thursday.

That’s great. We are now six years into this war, and nearly every American would like to see U.S. military personnel safely out of harm’s way in that country, regardless of whether they believe the war was appropriately waged in the first place.

But Obama’s announcement of a date certainly doesn’t mean all U.S. troops will suddenly leave Iraq. Instead, many will divert their efforts to advising, equipping and training Iraqi security forces, as well as assisting in reconstruction and political reconciliation. That means some U.S. soldiers, Marines or other personnel may still potentially be in dangerous positions beyond Aug. 31, 2010, if political reconciliation swiftly turns to internal warfare, as can quickly happen in that part of the world.

The president’s plan calls for leaving 35,000 to 50,000 troops in Iraq after that 2010 deadline.

However, under an agreement reached between Iraq and the United States late last year, all U.S. military personnel must leave the country by Dec. 31, 2011.

President Obama is right to keep some personnel in the country beyond Aug. 31, 2010, to help facilitate what we can only hope is the continuing progress of Iraq to a fully self-governing, self-policing democracy.

The president is also the beneficiary of the effort conceived during the Bush administration and undertaken under the able leadership of Gen. David Petraeus. Without the surge in troops and change in tactics that began in 2007, Iraq would not be as stable as it is today, and its leaders would not be so eager to embrace Obama’s plans for a withdrawal of U.S. troops.

However, Obama clearly understands the need to protect the peace, which was won with so much sacrifice from people in the U.S. military, as well as Iraqi citizens. He angered some Democrats by not ordering a swifter reduction in all U.S. forces in Iraq.

We think the president’s plan makes sense, giving the current situation in Iraq. We hope he will give the military the resources it needs to work with Iraqis to continue the country’s progress between now and Aug. 31, 2010.


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