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January 18, 2008

Baghdad Security Improved Tenfold

Ten times more neighborhoods in Baghdad are secure now than at the start of the surge, according to the US military, and 75% of the Iraqi capital now qualifies for that status. The remarkable improvement comes on the anniversary of the shift in strategy and tactics known as the "surge", and it highlights the dramatic turnaround in Iraq over the past year:

About 75% of Baghdad's neighborhoods are now secure, a dramatic increase from 8% a year ago when President Bush ordered more troops to the capital, U.S. military figures show.

The military classifies 356 of Baghdad's 474 neighborhoods in the "control" or "retain" category of its four-tier security rating system, meaning enemy activity in those areas has been mostly eliminated and normal economic activity is resuming.

The data given by the military to USA TODAY provide one of the clearest snapshots yet of how security has improved in Baghdad since roughly 30,000 additional American troops arrived in Iraq last year.

In February 2007, only 37 neighborhoods out of 474 were considered secure at all. Now only 78 of them fail to meet this standard. The rest of the neighborhoods do not have a significant American presence, so they do not qualify as secure. They are not necessarily violent, but have yet to get addressed by either Iraqi or American security forces. Because of the lack of verified security, these areas also have more problems in infrastructure, services, and economic revival.

Still, the rapid securing of the capital has brought its residents back into the streets and feeling more confident about their future. Although the USA Today report fails to mention it, the recent breakthrough on de-Baathification reform will help integrate the city's Sunnis back into the mainstream of government and society, helping to assuage sectarian conflicts. (Jim Michaels notes a lack of progress on revenue sharing from oil, but somehow skips over the recent benchmark accomplishment on re-engaging Sunnis.) As the capital becomes more secure, infrastructure investment will escalate, helping to keep rivalries from becoming violent.

Momentum continues towards success, so much so that even anti-war groups have stopped pushing for immediate withdrawal. We need to continue our efforts to stabilize Iraq and see that the security and standard of living improves for Iraqis across the nation to keep terrorists from gaining a foothold in this strategic nation.


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