President Obama’s announcement last week that the United States would remove most of the troops it sent to West Africa to help fight the Ebola epidemic marked a successful response to what could have been a global tragedy.

Although over 9,200 people died from among the 23,000 cases identified since the disease surfaced in Guinea in December 2013, the spread and number of deaths could have been far, far greater. Ebola, which first turned up in an outbreak in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1976, is highly contagious and, until attacked systematically this time, almost always fatal.

France tackled it in Guinea, the United Kingdom in Sierra Leone and the United States in Liberia. Some 2,800 U.S. forces were there at the peak and so far $939 million has been spent on giving treatment, seeking prevention and finding a cure. Many activities launched will have long-term potential, including medical infrastructure put in place as well as research. The U.S. troop level has already been reduced by 1,500, with all but 100 expected to be out by April 30.

Obama made very clear that this is not the end of the battle. Containment has been achieved, but eradication of the disease is probably an unrealistic goal. In the past, Ebola has disappeared, only to return in major outbreaks in 1976, 1995 and, of course, last year.

The U.S. response this time was relatively quick, major and commendable. The impulse was largely humanitarian, although fear also had to play a part, given the deadly threat the disease presents.