The U.S. says combat has ended in Iraq, but is the fighting really over?

Guest Editorial
The reality for the nearly 50,000 American troops in Iraq is that fighting is hardly over, never mind President Obama’s declaration Tuesday night.

Like so much else about this open-ended war, combat has ended not when the United States says it has — but when terrorists and insurgents stop creating a threat to the legitimacy of Iraq’s young government.

The president intends to bring most remaining U.S. troops home by the end of next year, and only then will it be clear whether this withdrawal strategy is working. Based on our country’s track record in Iraq, it’s not easy to predict what time will show.

Clearly, the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 was built on faulty assumptions. Our country forced Saddam Hussein out, but we had no solid plan for what would follow.

For that matter, the troop surge four years later drew criticism from many — including then-Sen. Obama — as a foolish effort. The added troops and change in strategy clearly worked. It’s too bad President Obama finds it so difficult to acknowledge that publicly.

While Iraq’s future remains uncertain, the United States continues to have a real interest in seeing the country succeed. A stable democracy would be a barrier against the forces of extremism in the Middle East and an inspiration to people in other countries in the region.

We should remember that the armies of terror that threaten the United States have their roots in the Middle East. Whether this is still combat or not, our country’s fight to promote democracy and stability abroad will depend partly on what happens in Iraq.