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Gains in Iraq, but no 'tipping point'

Despite recent bombings and a kidnapping, insurgent attacks are down as are numbers of US troops wounded.

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For US forces in Iraq, the good news is that they appear to be making progress in their battle against an entrenched insurgency. The bad news is that the insurgents are far from defeated - and it will be some time before Iraqi government forces can fight the rebels on their own.

It's true, as President Bush noted in a speech this week, that the new Iraqi government's own security forces now outnumber in-country US troops. But experts note that the majority of these are police and lightly armed security guards, and are not really comparable to US military personnel.

Thus the bottom line is that large numbers of US troops will remain in Iraq for the foreseeable future, though the total may be reduced somewhat over the coming months.

When it comes to the Iraqi security situation "we still have no tipping point, and we face at least a tipping year," writes Anthony H. Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in a new assessment of the situation. The most recent news from Iraq has been tragically reminiscent of the bad days prior to the January Iraqi election. Twin suicide car bombs killed at least 15 people during Baghdad's morning rush hour on Thursday. US forces said that two other bombs were found in the area and detonated safely by ordnance experts.

These attacks followed a spate of car bombs and suicide attacks that occurred throughout the country on Wednesday. And an American contractor kidnapped earlier this week appeared in a videotape released by his captors, looking pale and frightened and pleading for his life.

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