Time is right to get US troops out of Iraq

Any gains from leaving troops in Iraq beyond this year would be insignificant.

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President Obama made a wise decision to get all American soldiers out of Iraq by the end of the year.

The U.S. has been fighting in Iraq for eight years. Once the U.S. began bombing Baghdad there was no turning back. The U.S. had a responsibility to rebuild Iraq and leave it with a stable government. Much progress has been made over the past seven years.

No, it is not a perfect situation but future gains in Iraq security are likely to be insignificant given the risk to American military personnel.

Over a year ago Obama had agreed the United States would get most of its troops out of Iraq by the end of 2011, although the plan was to leave between 3,000 to 5,000 troops as trainers for the Iraq military.

However, Pentagon lawyers insisted it would be unwise to leave the trainers behind unless the Iraqi Parliament granted those troops immunity from legal prosecution. In recent weeks American negotiators in Baghdad concluded that it would be impossible to obtain that immunity. This left officials little choice but to recommend full withdrawal.

Obama was elected in 2008 on a promise to get the U.S. out of the wars in Iraq as well as Afghanistan. Extracting U.S. troops from these wars has proven to be far more difficult than anticipated. The war in Iraq has also been very deadly and expensive. About 4,400 U.S. soldiers have tragically lost their lives and stunningly more than $1 trillion has been spent.

If U.S. troops were to stay in Iraq beyond this year they would continue to be targets for those trying to undermine the new Iraq government. Getting the troops out of Iraq -- and out of harm's way -- makes sense. Over the long run, this move will serve to help Iraq.

Ultimately, it will be up to Iraq and its people to secure their own country. The U.S. has spent an incredible amount of time and money preparing Iraq's army and security forces. If they aren't ready after all these years, then when will they be ready?

This is an election year in the United States and Republicans are questioning the wisdom of Obama's decision. They say they are particularly concerned given recent threats by Iran.

The concern is valid but it appears the Obama administration has taken this into account.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who made the rounds of the news discussion shows on Sunday, said the U.S. will maintain a strong military interest in Iraq after its last combat troops leave.

"We have a lot of presence in that region," Clinton said in an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley. "No one, most particularly Iran, should miscalculate about our commitment ... to the Iraqis."

Getting out of Iraq is not without risk. But the fact is there are also great risks -- maybe greater risks -- if the troops stay.

It is time to get the U.S. troops out and turn control of Iraq over to the Iraqis.

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