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Situation improves in Iraq war

Whether one supports the Bush administration's Iraq war policy or not, there is objective evidence that progress has been made in achieving at least some of the war's goals. Two reports issued this week confirmed as much.

Debating the reasons the United States went to war is akin to closing the barn door after the horse ran off. What's done is done. The focus should be on the situation as it is today. U.S. policymakers and the military must assess the war effort as it stands now and look to the future from that basis, not from the mistakes that pushed the nation into war some six years ago.

The two reports highlighted economic and security progress in Iraq, but cautioned that the country remains unstable and volatile. Iraq is anything but peaceful, but signs of progress suggest the American surge has worked as hoped; Iraqi forces are beginning to step up to their vital security role, but have a long way to go. Iraqi forces that are trained perform well, but only 10 percent can operate on their own, one report said.

One of the brighter findings of the Pentagon's quarterly Iraq report was that al-Qaida has been hobbled by the military buildup and in areas where Iraqi forces have been effective. Al-Qaida's areas of influence have shrunk, although the report warns al-Qaida still has the ability to regroup and mount attacks.

Other positive conclusions:

- Half of all security incidents occurred in northern Iraq, while most other provinces averaged only one attack per day.

- Civilian deaths in May were 75 percent lower than last July.

- High-profile attacks were down 70 percent over the peak in March 2007.

- American forces continue to be drawn down to pre-surge levels.

Neither report suggests the security and economic conditions in Iraq are good. But objective measures show improvements. The situation is better in most parts of the nation than it was a year ago.

Every survey of Americans finds weariness with the war and condemnation of policies that dragged the nation into the war. Whether it was out-and-out lies or lousy intelligence data and analyses, the war today is as unpopular as wars get. Americans are divided on what to do: Some say get out now, which is not realistic; others say a steady drawdown and eventual military disengagement is the best option. Through the fog of debate, most Americans remain steadfast in their support for the men and women in uniform who have been called upon to carry out the nation's war policy, flawed as it's been.

But progress must be acknowledged. This week's reports are not rosy, but they are not as bleak as in the past. If progress continues, the next president and the Democratic-controlled Congress (the House just approved the president's request for $167 billion in new war funding and the Senate is expected to follow suit), will have an easier time ending U.S. military involvement in Iraq. -- The Forum