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The Beginning of the End


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Foreign Policy:

On Thursday, the last U.S. combat brigade to leave Iraq crossed into Kuwait, fulfilling President Barack Obama's pledge to withdraw all but 50,000 American troops from a country with which the United States has become intimately, and painfully, familiar over the last seven and a half years.

The remaining soldiers and marines will stay in Iraq until Dec. 31, 2011, for training and other support purposes. Although the possibility cannot be ruled out, it seems quite unlikely that their presence will be extended beyond the 2011 deadline. Political imperatives in both Iraq and the United States seem to work against this possibility, even though there are those in both countries who argue that a longer-term U.S. residual force is needed.

Having landed in Baghdad as U.S. ambassador to Iraq at the end of June 2004, I find it a truly remarkable and positive accomplishment that we are able to look to the day not too far off when Iraqi security forces will be able to assume full and complete responsibility for their country's security. At the time of my arrival, Iraqi security forces were, for all practical purposes, nonexistent. There was, for example, only one -- yes, one -- Iraqi army battalion and it was composed of various ethnic and sectarian elements. Today, there are some 600,000 Iraqi security forces and important strides have been made toward giving Iraq's security organizations a national rather than partisan character. This is no small achievement; it has taken seven years to accomplish and only after some false starts and perilous moments.

Iraq's future, now in its own hands. And, I should add, due in no small part to the former President the Democrats still love to blame.
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