President Barack Obama's announcement that the last American soldier will leave Iraq by year's end signals a welcome end to a war that was started under false pretenses and went on far too long — killing more than 4,400 Americans and many more thousands of Iraqis and costing about $1 trillion over nearly nine years.
When Obama took office, there were about 142,000 Americans fighting in Iraq. The president deserves credit for fulfilling his campaign promise to bring the conflict to a close.
Obama had wanted to leave several thousand troops behind for a while longer to keep training Iraqi forces and to help Iraq's democratically elected but deeply flawed government maintain security.
But the Iraqis couldn't make up their minds, and the debate in Baghdad was growing increasingly bitter. With a Dec. 31 deadline for a full withdrawal — negotiated by President George W. Bush — approaching, Obama decided the best thing to do was to bring all the troops home.
There is still talk between Iraqis and Americans about an ongoing military relationship and future negotiations that could continue Iraqi training in Kuwait, the United States or under NATO auspices.
We share concerns about Iran's growing influence, continued high levels of violence and doubts about the ability of Iraq's army and police. Those were reasons to keep a small military force there, with a carefully drawn mission, but only if Iraq agreed.
Copyright New York Times, from the Associated Press