As the sixth anniversary of the war in Iraq draws near, a US captain sums up the state of American affairs to Steven Lee Myers of the New York Times: "We're in the endgame now." Though most troops won't be home until 2010, the war is effectively over in most of the country. Attacks haven’t been this few since September 2003, having dropped 70% from a year ago, and the focus now is essentially on maintaining stability, not combat operations—or, to put it another way, nation-building.
There may yet be clouds ahead. Al-Qaeda is “a dying snake,” but it “still has punch,” says a general. Iraq’s security forces still lean on Americans, who number more than 140,000, more than before the surge. But, says an official in a relatively safe region, his problems are now “good problems,” like Iraqi forces planning raids without alerting him. “We need to take our hands off the handlebars, or the training wheels, at some point,” said the chief American military spokesman.