The surge has allowed Iraq to make improvements from security, political and economic standpoints, Morrell said. The last of the five surge brigade combat teams recently left Iraq. The policy, announced by President Bush in December 2006, pushed the brigades in to Iraq to provide a security umbrella so the Iraqi military could build and the country’s government could grow.
“By every metric that we measure violence in Iraq, there has been a dramatic improvement from where things were before the surge,” Morrell said. “I’ll just point to one, and that is [that] in July of last year, we had 79 U.S. [servicemembers killed in action] in Iraq. We have four thus far this month.”
The dramatic security gains have provided room for political and economic successes. “You name it, it is happening in Iraq,” Morrell said. “Do you want to talk about political gains? We’ve had basically all the major benchmark legislation passed.”
The Sunni bloc has returned to the government, 10 of 18 Iraqi provinces are under local control, and Najaf International Airport has reopened. “You see a $300 million luxury hotel opening up in the Green Zone [and] $50 million in refurbishment of the airport road,” Morrell said. “There’s economic investment, and there’s political progress. There’s increased security. All those things are undeniable, and they are attributable to the fact that we plussed up forces in there.”
There were, of course, other factors at work in the security improvement, Morrell said, but the surge and the change in U.S. counterinsurgency strategy made all else possible. The “Anbar Awakening” that allied formerly insurgent Sunni Muslims with the coalition and influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s cease-fire were other factors, he said, but he noted they didn’t happen independently of other events.
“If we think that Sadr acted in a vacuum, I think we’re kidding ourselves,” Morrell said. “There clearly was political and military pressure which caused him to make a decision to have his troops stand down.
“But we benefitted from it, no doubt,” he continued. “There’s no question that the awakening in Anbar, the cease-fire by Sadr, simultaneous to the surge, has helped the overall security situation in Iraq.”