This editorial appeared in The (Raleigh) News & Observer.
The Parliament of Iraq has been bedeviled by the same animosities that nearly tore the country apart when the ongoing war was at its most violent. Yet the country's lawmakers finally have pulled together well enough to take yes for an answer. They backed a "status of forces" agreement with the United States that includes a commitment to withdraw U.S. troops by the end of 2011.
Final approval by the Iraqi government awaits. But what's not to like about setting a date by which America's role in the war – begun 5 1/2 agonizing years ago – conceivably could be over? This could be a long-awaited milestone – although most certainly the Islamic radicals whose attacks still claim American and Iraqi lives will try to dodge any semblance of defeat.
Iraqi opponents of the pact denounce it as signifying undue cooperation with an occupying force. They would rather see the United States abandon its Iraqi presence straightaway.
But even with President-elect Obama having campaigned on his intent to bring American troops home, there was no chance that the withdrawal would be immediate. Obama prudently has left some flexibility in a timetable that would have U.S. combat forces withdrawn by mid-2010, conditions permitting. The Bush administration at first resisted the timetable approach – but then realized it could make the best of a bad situation by getting on board. Hence its commitment to the deadline three years from now.
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