What happened
U.S. forces transferred security responsibility to the Iraqis in Anbar province, which was feared lost before last year, when a surge of American troops helped reduce violence and local Sunnis turned against al-Qaida in Iraq. (AP in the Baltimore Sun)

What the commentators said
“The Anbar handover,” said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial, “is above all a tribute to the hundreds of Americans who have fought and died in places like Fallujah, Ramadi and Hit over these last five years.” It shows what can be accomplished when we resist calls to cut and run, and steel ourselves to “fight to ultimate victory.”

Anbar is the first Sunni province to be handed over to the Iraqis, said Tom A. Peter in The Christian Science Monitor, so it has tremendous symbolic importance. But Iraqis know it’s too early to celebrate. There are still plenty of insurgents around, they’ve just “temporarily moved their political wings underground” so, according to an Iraqi colonel,  they can emerge after the handover as policemen, politicians, and soldiers.

The surge definitely calmed Iraq and removed the war as the top issue in the U.S. presidential campaign, said Steve Coll in The New Yorker. But its real purpose was “to change Iraqi politics by providing the security needed to induce a national reconciliation; this has not occurred, although there has been progress of a tentative nature.” So the next president will still have plenty of tough calls to make.