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Is “tangible progress” cause for real optimism?

David Petraeus, head of the Multinational Security Transition Command in Iraq, reports that “tangible progress” is occurring as “Iraqi security elements are being rebuilt from the ground up.” Petraeus predicts that “with strong Iraqi leaders out front and with continued coalition — and now NATO — support, this trend will continue.”
Petraeus provides something that is missing from nearly all MSM coverage of Iraq — data. For example, there now are 164,000 Iraqi police and soldiers in the field and an additional 74,000 facility protection forces. Six battalions of Iraq troops are conducting operations. Fifteen more will be ready by January. Iraqi troops were prepared to enter the mosque in Najaf and have conducted succesful operations in that city. Seven hundred Iraqi security force members have been killed, but thousands continue to enlist in the army and the police force. On an impressionistic level, Petraeus reports that the Iraqi security forces are determined to succeed and “eager to assume the full burden of security tasks for Iraq.”
How optimistic should we be in light of this report? I’m in no position to say. Indeed, Petraeus, while optimistic, stops short of saying how optimistic he is. One thing seems clear, though. We can more optimistic about the prospect that Iraqi security forces will prevail down the road if U.S. forces become more aggressive in killing the enemies of those forces at this stage of the struggle.

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