Commentary: A road map to leave Iraq

This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.

"Tell me how this ends," Army Gen. David Petraeus once asked a reporter. At the time, the U.S. military effort in Iraq was mired in futility. Today, he has his answer. The Iraqi Cabinet has approved a proposed security agreement that calls for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops by the end of 2011. Most Americans would say it's about time.

For years, the Bush administration resisted the notion of an imposed timeline for withdrawal. That would have compelled Mr. Bush to come up with a realistic war plan based on what was really happening in Iraq. The lack of such a plan from the outset is the major reason the war has dragged on for so long. If the proposed timeline holds, U.S. troops will have been in Iraq for almost nine years after the first heady days of "shock and awe." That is far longer than the country was led to believe when the invasion was launched in March 2003.

The failure to plan adequately lies at the heart of the problem. Only after Gen. Petraeus assumed command of U.S. forces in Iraq and Robert Gates replaced Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense did things begin to change. The "surge" of 30,000 troops that Mr. Bush insisted on helped to turn things around. The real difference came when Iraq's Sunni became fed up with al Qaeda's murderers and decided to cast their lot with U.S. forces instead.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.

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