When Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno took command of Multi-National Corps-Iraq (MNC-I) on Dec. 14, 2006, Iraq was in flames. Insurgents and death squads were killing 3,000 civilians a month and coalition forces were sustaining more than 1,200 attacks per week. By the time General Odierno relinquished command on Feb. 14, 2008, civilian casualties and attacks on coalition forces were both down 60%. The Council of Representatives had passed laws addressing de-Baathification, amnesty, and provincial powers. A national budget had been adopted that distributed oil revenues and a date had been set for provincial elections.

The Iraq war is far from over and victory is not assured by any means. However, the change in tactics implemented by General Odierno have clearly improved the situation in Iraq, and today he will share his insights about the past and future of Iraq at The Heritage Foundation.

One of the strategies Frederick W. Kagan and Kimberly Kagan detail in their recent article “The Patton of Counterinsurgency” is General Odierno work expanding the “Awakening” that began before his arrival, beyond Anbar, and into the rest of Iraq. The Kagan’s report that when American soldiers first approached prospective “concerned local citizens” (CLCs) about cooperating with the U.S. many of them would ask, “Will you stay this time?” Because of the change in strategy and the increase in U.S. troops, for the first time, American soldiers could say yes.

The latest polling from both Gallup and Pew show that support for American efforts in Iraq is growing. The Wall Street Journal highlights: “[T]he Pew report says that about half the public (48%) now says the Iraq war effort is going either very well or fairly well. That compares to a more than 2-1 majority who said it was going badly a year ago.” Democrats have noticed the trend in public opinion against their position and are shifting gears to focus less on the surge’s success and more on rebuilding a spent military.

But the anti-war movement’s latest tack ignores how central Iraq’s “Awakening” against al-Qaeda is to our nation’s security. A recent survey found that in January less than a quarter of Pakistanis approved of Mr bin Laden, compared with 46 per cent last August, while backing for al-Qaeda fell from 33 per cent to 18 per cent. And according to a July 2007 report from the Pew Global Attitudes Project, “large and growing numbers of Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere [are] rejecting Islamic extremism”. Our recent gains in Iraq are fragile and can be easily lost if we rapidly withdrawal from the region. Hopefully soldiers like General Odierno can convince Congress to give American forces the resources they need to continue their success.

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