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Further Progress in Iraq

By Jon Kyl

Last week, the U.S. commander of Multi-National Forces Iraq, General David Petraeus, and the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, reported to Congress. While many significant challenges remain in Iraq, they stressed that measurable progress has been made since they last testified before Congress in September 2007. Most importantly, both General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker stated that the war in Iraq has made America safer.

When the President sent roughly 30,000 more troops to Iraq in early 2007 as part of the troop surge strategy, many declared the plan a failure before it even began. But by the end of last year, it became clear that significant progress had been made, and the violence in Iraq had significantly decreased.

Some of those same naysayers now hesitantly acknowledge that we have succeeded in decreasing the insurgent violence, but charge that the new Iraqi government has failed to meet political and legislative benchmarks that were set by Congress in early 2007. Frederick Kagan, a key architect of the counter-insurgency strategy, disagrees. In an April 3rd article, he cites a recent study by the U.S. Institute of Peace that notes two-thirds of these benchmarks have been met, and the remaining marks are close to being achieved.

According to Ambassador Crocker, "Iraq's parliament has been formulated, debated vigorously, and in many cases passed legislation dealing with vital issues of reconciliation and nation building." The Iraqi government has also established the basis for democratic elections, it continues to make progress toward completing a constitutional review, and it has implemented legislation on de-Baathification.

Al Qaeda in Iraq, which had virtually taken over significant portions of Iraq before the surge, has retreated to only a few parts of the country today. Moreover, the Iraqi people themselves have rejected the violence and horror that is the mark of al Qaeda and its affiliates. It is critical to the defeat of the terrorists that the Muslim world itself fights them. As Senator Lindsey Graham noted, "When Arab Muslim people say no to al Qaeda and we will fight bin Laden, his agents, and sympathizers, that is a good day for America."

Iraqi forces have also grown. According to General Petraeus, well over 100,000 Iraqi soldiers and police were added in 2007, and the number continues to grow. This joint effort, with the Iraqi forces continuing to bear more responsibility for the security and development of their nation, is a sign that things are moving in the right direction.

General Petraeus cautioned, however, that "the progress made since last spring is fragile and reversible." He also told Congress that there is clear evidence that Iran is heavily invested in an American defeat in Iraq and poses the biggest threat to our success there.

General Petraeus's testimony reminds us that Congress must quickly pass a bill to provide the resources necessary for our troops to continue succeeding in Iraq. Under no circumstances should a bill dedicated to providing resources to our troops be used as a legislative vehicle to finance unrelated domestic spending projects.

Approximately 20,000 U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by July, according to the Pentagon. As the conditions in Iraq continue to improve, we can continue drawing down our U.S. troops from Iraq. As General Petraeus said, "We're after conditions that would allow our soldiers to disengage. And that is in fact what we are doing as we achieve progress, as we have with the surge and that is what is indeed allowing us to withdraw the surge forces."

Sen. Kyl serves on the Senate Finance and Judiciary committees and chairs the Senate Republican Conference. Visit his website at

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