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Once on the verge of all-out civil war between majority Shiites and minority Sunnis, Iraq is now showing signs of progress. Attacks by insurgents and sectarian militias have decreased by 80% in Baghdad this past year.
In 2006, the average daily number found dead in Baghdad was 43. This average has dropped significantly to only four in 2008.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki launched “Operation Imposing Law,” which was regarded by international forces as a last-ditch effort to end the violence between Shiites and Sunnis. Iraqi forces, along with American troops, pushed al-Qaeda and other militias out of their strongholds as a result of this operation.
To demonstrate the safety of Baghdad, the prime minister toured parts of the city while visiting Iraqi forces and checkpoints. “He wanted…to send a message to the terrorists that security in Baghdad is prevailing now,” one official said (Reuters).
Mr. Maliki hopes the 12-foot concrete blast walls that divide the capital will soon be removed. They were put in place to prevent car bombs that were turning marketplaces into literal “killing fields.”
Following Operation Imposing Law, an additional 30,000 U.S. troops along with Iraqi forces engaged in wider offensives against insurgents. Before this, Baghdad was full of violence, with explosions, gunfire, and the screams of parents and children regularly heard throughout the city. Burned and dismembered bodies were a common sight.
A major factor in the decrease in violence was the decision by Sunni Arab tribal leaders to turn against al-Qaeda in late 2006. They also formed neighborhood security units, which man security checkpoints and provide tips on militants' hideouts.
The U.S. military says that attacks across Iraq have fallen by nearly 60% since the troop surge and security clampdown.
With this success, the United States is slowly pulling out its troops. Approximately 20,000 are scheduled to depart by July, thinning the number stationed in Iraq to 130,000.