Commentary: Iraq mission isn't over

More than seven years after former President Bush announced the start of military operations in Iraq, Americans remain divided about the wisdom of invading that country and staying so long. No matter what side one takes on that score, there should be no dispute over the decision to start getting out.

"Ending this war is not only in Iraq's interest -- it's in our own," President Obama declared on Tuesday as he announced the end of U.S. combat operations. He's right on both counts.

For Iraq, the costs of having a large U.S. military presence are twofold. First, their presence is a source of friction among Iraqis, strengthening anti-American attitudes among those who see U.S. soldiers as enemies. Withdrawing troops voluntarily gives validity to the U.S. position that this was never intended as a war of conquest. It confounds the U.S. haters.

Second, as long as American combat troops stay, Iraq's leaders are content to let them take the point on security operations, thus postponing the day when they must undertake that responsibility. Why should they do the hard work when we are willing to do it for them?

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