With levels of terrorist violence across Iraq down in the wake of the successful troop surge, the Obama Administration is announcing today that the timetable for withdrawal from the country will be completed within 18 months. I'm not a big fan of one-word quotes from top military officials, but when the level of violence is Anbar province--scene of some of the most intense and brutal acts of violence since the transition from Saddam Hussein towards a democratic Iraq--can be categorized as almost "meaningless," it is a sign that genuine progress has been made in the country.
There have been incredibly trying times in Iraq since 2003. Many thousands of innocent people have lost their lives, terrorist activities held large swaths of the country hostage to fear and intimidation, basic human services have been spotty, and the creation of a new state apparatus has been very difficult. Yet the perserverence of the country's people coupled with the military and political gains in the past couple years, has put Iraq in a position to be successful. There are still many who would have preferred that Saddam Hussein remain in power; these people are wrong. Iraq today is better off than it was in February 2003, and it will continue to improve and inspire.