Iraq’s cabinet approved a pact on Sunday that will let U.S. troops stay in the country until 2011, setting a final date to end a military presence that began with the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
The pact, reached after nearly a year of gruelling negotiations with Washington, must still be approved by the Iraqi parliament, but Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said he expected that to happen by the end of the month.
It gives a closing date to pull out troops from a war that has been one of the defining political issues in the United States, the Middle East and around the globe for much of the past decade.
“The total withdrawal will be completed by Dec. 31, 2011. This is not governed by circumstances on the ground. This date is specific and final,” cabinet spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.
He said the pact was supported by 27 of 28 cabinet members who attended a meeting to vote on it.
It’s good to see that the Iraqi government and military are now confident enough to finally take control of their country’s security.
The Bush administration wasted years of potential progress by attempting to fight the insurgency militarilyt instead of combatting the political and social divisions that lead to the insurgency. Sadly, the Iraqi government used American soldiers as crutches for far too long while their efforts to build a functioning government and viable military stagnated.
It’s telling that Iraq has made significant advancements in just the past few months, when American withdrawl from Iraq in the near future has become almost guaranteed. It took the real threat of losing the protection of American military force for the Iraqi government to make much-needed progress.
The Iraq war will end within Obama’s first term; whenever it ends, it will be the second-longest war in American history. We can hope that Iraq will stand on it’s own feet and that, in the future, the tactical blunders and planning failures that created the Iraq debacle will never, ever be repeated.