Here is a rundown of the pertinent points:
WHO IS THE PROBLEM?
Iraq is, in fact, the central front of al Qaeda's global campaign and we devote considerable resources to the fight against al Qaeda Iraq
There can be no sustainable outcome if militia death squads are allowed to lie low during the surge only to resurface later and resume killing and intimidation
while we continue to battle a number of such groups, we are seeing some others joining Sunni Arab tribes in turning against al Qaeda Iraq and helping transform Anbar province and other areas from being assessed as lost as little as six months ago to being relatively heartening. We will continue to engage with Sunni tribal sheikhs and former insurgent leaders to support the newfound opposition of some to al Qaeda, ensuring that their fighters join legitimate Iraqi security force elements to become part of the fight against extremists, just as we reach out to moderate members of all sects and ethnic groups to try to drive a wedge between the irreconcilables and the reconcilables, and help the latter become part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
WHAT OF THE IRAQI GOVERNMENT?
-It's Brand New
It is in fact important to recall that the government of Prime Minister Maliki is Iraq's fourth government in as many years.
it is one comprised of political leaders from different parties that often default to narrow agendas and a zero-sum approach to legislation.
-It Needs Time
The focus of Multinational Force Iraq is, of course, on working with our Iraqi counterparts to help improve security for the people of Iraq in order to give Iraqi leaders the time and space they need to come to grips with the tough political issues that must be resolved.
HOW'S THE SURGE GOING?
-Good, Though We Just Got Started
We are still in the relatively early stages of our new effort, about two months into it, with three of five Army surge brigades and two additional Marine battalions on the ground, and the remainder of the additional combat forces scheduled to be operating in their areas by mid-June.
Baghdad is the main effort, and we continue to establish joint security stations and combat outposts in the city and in the belts around it. The presence of coalition and Iraqi forces and increased operational tempo, especially in areas where until recently we had no sustained presence, have begun to produce results. Most significantly, Iraqi and coalition forces have helped to bring about a substantial reduction in the rate of sectarian murders each month from January until now in Baghdad, a reduction of about two-thirds. There have also been increases in weapons caches seized and the number of actionable tips received.
In the Ramadi area, for example, U.S. and Iraqi forces have found nearly as many caches in the first four months of this year as they found in all of last year
Beyond this, we are seeing a revival of markets, renewed commerce, the return of some displaced families and the slow resumption of services, though I want to be very clear that there is vastly more work to be done across the board and in many areas, and I again note that we are really just getting started with the new effort.
-Fighting, And Casualties, Increase As We Reenter Areas We Withdrew From In The Past
Our achievements have not come without sacrifice. Our increase in operational tempo, location of our forces in the populations they are securing and conduct of operations in areas where we previously had no presence, as well as the enemy's greater use of certain types of explosive devices, have led to an increase in our losses. Our Iraqi partners have sacrificed heavily as well, with losses generally two to three times ours or even more.
-It's Hard When All That's Reported Are The Car Bombs
As I mentioned, we generally in many areas -- not all, but in many areas -- have a sense of sort of incremental progress. Again, that is not transmitted at all. Of course it will never break through the noise and the understandable coverage given to it in the press of a sensational attack that kills many Iraqis.
You know, all of this is actually so foreign, I think, in the mind of most people who see the news and of course do see that day's explosion or something like that. And actually there is a city of seven million in which life goes on, and again, citizens are determined to carry on with their life.
ARE YOU SURE AL QUEDA IS THERE?
It is clearly the element in Iraq that conducts the sensational attacks, these attacks that, as I mentioned, cause not just horrific physical damage -- and which, by the way, have been increasingly indiscriminate. Secretary Gates noted the other day that al Qaeda has declared war on all Iraqis, and I think that that is an accurate statement. They have killed and wounded and maimed countless Iraqi civilians in addition to, certainly, coalition and Iraqi security forces, and they have done that, again, without regard to ethnosectarian identity.
That significance of al Qaeda in the conduct of the sensational attacks, the huge car bomb attacks against which we have been hardening markets, hardening neighborhoods, trying to limit movement and so forth -- those attacks, again, are of extraordinary significance because they can literally drown out anything else that might be happening
So this is a -- you know, it is a very significant enemy. I think it is probably public enemy number one.
...Typically, in fact, still we believe that, oh, 80 to 90 percent of the suicide attacks are carried out by foreigners.
WHAT HAPPENS IF WE LEAVE?
My sense is that there would be an increase in sectarian violence, a resumption of sectarian violence, were the presence of our forces and Iraqi forces at that time to be reduced and not to be doing what it is that they are doing right now.