Leaving Iraq, Petraeus Sees Gains as Fragile

Violence is down, but 'it's not durable yet,' says general
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 21, 2008 5:37 AM CDT
In this Thursday, April 10, 2008 file photo, Gen. David Petraeus, left, listens to Ambassador Ryan Crocker during a news conference in Washington.   (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke, File)
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(Newser) – David Petraeus is leaving Iraq after 18 months, and by all measures the country is far safer than when he arrived. The "surge" of 30,000 extra American soldiers was bolstered by major domestic developments, from the Muqtada al-Sadr ceasefire to the rise of Sunni awakening councils. But in an interview with the New York Times, the departing general warned that "It’s not durable yet. It’s not self-sustaining."

Last month only 13 Americans died in Iraq, the lowest fatality rate since the war began. And with violence in Iraq down 80%, the country looks safer than at any time since the fall of Saddam Hussein. The coming challenge, according to Petraeus, is to strengthen the Iraqi government and military and keep the Sadrists from regrouping: "Don’t take any of this to imply that we think we’re anywhere near finished."