In an interview which the Washington Post suggested foreshadows the report he's going to be making next month, General Petraeus indicated that he isn't exactly satisfied with the the level of progress made by the Iraqi government toward reconciliation, though he believes they still have "the opportunity to act," as WaPo puts it, whatever that means. I assume it means he thinks they can still achieve it within a reasonable time. He said that US forces would "fight like the dickens" to build on the gains they've made in security. Still, the level of violence has increased:
While violence has declined dramatically since late 2006, when thousands of Iraqis were being killed each month, U.S. military data show that attacks on U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians have leveled off or risen slightly in the early part of 2008...Petraeus said several factors may account for the recent violence, including increased U.S. and Iraqi operations against insurgents in the northern city of Mosul -- which has lately become one of Iraq's most dangerous -- and insurgent efforts to reestablish some of their havens in Baghdad. And Petraeus said U.S. commanders could not discount the possibility that insurgents "know the April testimony is coming up." (WaPo)
The Iraqis admit that sectarian differences are interfering with progress, but say that Washington's goals are driven by its own considerations rather than Iraq's.(WaPo) "[T]he Iraqi government...has deferred action on some of its most important legislative goals, including laws governing the exploitation of Iraq's oil resources, that the Bush administration had identified as necessary benchmarks of progress toward reconciliation. (WaPo) It looks as if we're going to have to go on propping open that window a little longer.
The additional forces sent to Iraq last year have begun to depart and will be gone by midsummer, leaving in place a baseline U.S. presence of about 130,000 troops.
Petraeus...said the United States would temporarily freeze further reductions in its troop presence to allow for a "period of consolidation and evaluation after reducing our ground combat forces by over a quarter." He said he would discuss the length and timing of what the military terms an "operational pause" during his testimony. (WaPo)
When the additional forces depart, it will increasingly fall to "security forces and neighborhood patrols funded by the United States to help keep violence down." . (WaPo)