The Iraqi cabinet has approved a new status of forces agreement with the U.S. A key--and hopeful--feature of the agreement is that it calls for the withdrawal of U.S. military forces by the end of 2011.
The agreement, which must still be ratified by the Iraqi parliament, partly reflects the improved security situation. While the situation is still chaotic, Iraqis feel confident enough to go it alone in a few years.
The agreement also restricts U.S. military operations, starting next year. By next summer, U.S. forces are to withdraw from urban areas of the country. There are also restrictions on cross-border operations, like the one that just targeted Syria.
The plan is a boon for President-elect Obama, who has promised to withdraw troops on a somewhat faster schedule. Some months ago, it appeared that President Bush wanted to tie the hands of his successor to an open-ended commitment to Iraq. The agreement quashes that.
There are sure to be bumps along the road; however, the road map for ending substantial U.S. involvement in Iraq is in place. We should all hope that the Iraqis are up to the challenge.