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As war winds down, will Iraq's progress hold steady?

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According to estimates from independent organizations, between 6,700 and 8,000 Iraqis were killed in attacks in 2008, more than a 50 percent drop compared with 2007. According to the Associated Press, 314 US troops are believed to have died in Iraq in 2008 compared with 904 servicemen and women killed in 2007.

Will President-elect Barack Obama accelerate the US withdrawal?

Under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between Iraq and the US, some American troops have already started pulling back to major bases that will become regional military hubs. US forces are set to leave most cities by July and are scheduled to be completely out of Iraq by the end of 2011.

Even though Mr. Obama said during his campaign that he would withdraw forces within 16 months of taking office, military commanders, senior Iraqi officials, and Middle East experts have stressed that a rush to leave could be disastrous.

"Realism is the key to success, and Iraqi and US leaders need to be extremely careful about exaggerating Iraqi capabilities and the speed with which the US can safely withdraw its forces and advisory teams from Iraq," cautioned Anthony Cordesman, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in a recent report. "The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are still very much a work in progress."

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