The Iraqi army have routed insurgents in 3 of their most important urban strongholds. This follows the success of the surge in crushing al Qaeda in the Sunni triangle. Basra has been retaken from Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and is now mostly peaceful. After this Mr. Maliki repeated the same exercise in Sadr City. Recently Iraqi army operations in the northern city of Mosul netted more than 1,000 suspected Sunni insurgents in al Qaeda's last major urban sanctuary.
US deaths in Iraq now number around 4,000 but for the last few weeks the violence has subsided. The number of violent incidents recently have been at their lowest level since the spring of 2004 with the number of US combat fatalities last month, at 19, being the lowest of the entire war. Iraqi military and civilian deaths are also sharply down. In addition during the first 5 months of this year, 4,500 insurgent weapons caches were found, compared to 6,900 for all of 2007. These numbers have sometimes moved in the wrong direction and may do so again, particularly during major combat operations but the trend is positive.
'The Iraqi military is also improving, partly from the confidence gained from its recent successes. The government now counts more than half a million men under arms, and the army is emerging as a reliable and multiethnic national institution'.Kevin Rudd implemented Australian Labor Party policy this week by announcing the withdrawal of Australian combat troops from Iraq. This will have a minor effect on the war effort in Iraq - although the Australian forces in Iraq have performed a very useful role but does offer encouragement to the terrorist destroyers in Iraq. I cannot believe that it will leave the Australian-American alliance as 'rock solid' as Rudd suggests. Being a 'fair-weather friend' cannot fail to do harm to the most important defence alliance Australia has.
'a permanent U.S. military presence – albeit one reduced over time – would give Iraqis the confidence to continue their political maturation. Another Iraq national election is scheduled for next year, and it is an opportunity for democracy to put down even deeper roots. It's crucial for Americans to understand that, apart from the Sadrists, all factions of Iraqi politics now support some kind of U.S.-Iraq status of forces agreement to succeed the U.N. mandate that expires later this year'.