Commentary: A good exit from Iraq?

President Barack Obama tonight will note that, as he promised when taking office, U.S. combat forces have left Iraq.

The question is whether this exit is a good one. Just more than a year ago, The Star sought to lay out what a good exit from Iraq would look like. Little has happened since to change the thinking here. A poorly handled exit could well lead to a meltdown in this fragile country. We've spent billions of dollars, and 4,416 lives in Iraq at this point; we can’t simply walk away.

As Gen. Babaker Zebari of Iraq recently cautioned, his security forces will not be able to fully secure Iraq until 2020. For much of that time, it is reasonable to assume an American role in the country. But that role must be an extension of what U.S. troops have been doing there for the last year — behind-the-scenes support and training, not front-line action.

In our series "A Good Exit," we made six suggestions for giving Iraq the best chance at stability. Unfortunately, much work remains to be done on most of them. They all remain valid and doable, however.

There have been improvements to water and other basic services in Iraq, but much remains to be done. If the Iraqi people lose faith in their government or in democracy, it is unlikely to be because of high-minded ideals or the American presence. It is very likely to be the result of the inability of the government to provide clean water and sufficient electricity. This is still a great risk and must be addressed.

To read the complete editorial, visit www.kansascity.com.