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By By Jo Bonner
It was one year ago this month that President George W. Bush announced he would send an additional 20,000 U.S. troops to Iraq as part a new counterinsurgency strategy, known as “The Way Forward in Iraq.”
Under the leadership of a new commander on the ground, General David Petraeus, the troop surge ignited a vigorous debate in Washington about whether the injection of forces would truly be able to make a difference.
Members of Congress began declaring our efforts in Iraq to be all but lost, and the new majority in Congress initiated efforts to undermine the ability of our troops to succeed in their mission.
Just days before the president announced the surge, the top two Democratic leaders in Congress – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi - declared that “adding more combat troops will only endanger more Americans.”
The House went so far as to spend 36 hours debating a nonbinding resolution on the war - in which all members on both sides of the aisle were provided an opportunity to speak on a resolution that had no force of law behind it. Numerous attempts were also made to tie the funding for our military men and women to arbitrary goals and deadlines.
These naysayers have now been proven wrong. Although much of the mainstream media has largely chosen to ignore the progress achieved by the surge of American forces in Iraq, in the one year since the troop surge began, conditions in Iraq have improved significantly and much has been accomplished.
Just 12 months ago, the Anbar Province was all but lost to terrorism. Since then, the leaders and citizens of Anbar have opposed al Qaeda and rejected its Taliban-like ideology.
At a Pentagon press conference last week, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that U.S. and Iraqi forces have nearly “cleared” Anbar of al Qaeda and other insurgents.
Secretary Gates also announced that nine of the nation’s 18 provinces are now under the control of Iraqi security forces. Basra, which was transferred in December, is the most recent province to be put back under control of the Iraqi security forces.
Since March, high-profile attacks, car bombs and suicide attacks are down 60 percent according to the Department of Defense. American casualties are also down sharply, dropping in each of the past four months.
In his end-of-year letter to the troops in Iraq, General Petraeus stated that civilian deaths are down about 75 percent from a year ago. He also noted that coalition forces found and cleared more than 6,658 weapons caches in 2007, well over twice the amount cleared in 2006.
When President Bush first announced the surge, he stated the objective of the mission was “to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs.”
Admittedly, political progress in Iraq has been slow, but the objectives of the surge as outlined by the president are being met. Our forces have made extraordinary achievements and sacrifices; however, the successes of the past year will not bring an immediate end to the violence in Iraq.
The surge has quelled the terror and chaos that marked daily life in Iraq just one year ago. General Petraeus’ strategy is working, and we must sustain this momentum. The hard and difficult work of our troops, the leadership of General Petraeus, and the commitment of the president have provided the Iraqis the opportunity for freedom and for the country’s new government to succeed.
My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721 or visit my website at http://bonner.house.gov.
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appears weekly.