In Kuwait Saturday, President Bush conceded that until last year, "our strategy simply wasn't working," with Iraq riven by sectarian violence and Sunni and Shiite militants strengthening their grip in many areas. He said US forces were now on track to see a 20,000-troop drawdown by mid-2008, to the presurge level of 130,000. He warned it "would be premature" to suggest that the current offensive is a final push.
"Al Qaeda ... will continue to target the innocent with violence," Mr. Bush said. "But we've dealt Al Qaeda in Iraq heavy blows, and it now faces a growing uprising of ordinary Iraqis who want to live peaceful lives."
The surge was meant to lower violence to enable national reconciliation. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki claimed in recent days that "sectarian violence has ended" in Iraq, and that there was now political room for the "whole spectrum of the Iraqi people." But deep divisions remain. Still, parliament passed a law Saturday reversing key elements of the de-Baathification order, which should bring former bureaucrats, many of them Sunnis, back into the fold.
The increasing willingness of Sunni tribes, alienated by Al Qaeda tactics, to form US-backed paramilitary groups called Sahwa, or "Awakening," has been crucial. A six-month cease-fire by anti-US Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has also let the US concentrate on Sunni militants.