Despite doomsday civil war predictions, dishonest Time articles, and fervent hope on the left, things in Iraq seem to be consistantly improving:
If things continue on this trend, expect Baghdad to be the linchpin in the whole works. If we can get Baghdad under stable Iraqi police force control, our boys wont be long from home.
Twenty-two raids in the past week against such groups in the capital had led to 37 arrests, Major General William Caldwell told a news conference. He presented statistics showing a 16 percent drop in the daily average of attacks in Baghdad since August 7, at 21 compared to 25 in the preceding two months.
In three particularly violent areas where intensive raids to root out militants have been completed this month, life was returning to normal and attacks were rare, Caldwell said -- a sentiment endorsed by a number of residents in the mainly Sunni areas of Ghazaliya and Amriya and the mixed district of Dora.
Attacks in Dora had dropped to virtually none from 20 to 30 a day, he said, after U.S. and Iraqi forces flooded the area, forcing out militants and sought to win over people with offers of cash and help with municipal projects like collecting trash.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, I'll make a hesitant prediction that we could be seeing a phased withdrawal as early as November.
Update: CT Blog has as very in depth article on Operation Together Forward, the move to bring stability to Baghdad:
This is similar to the strategy employed successfully in Fallujah. There, Marine snipers established high ground strong points from which they could observe and coordinate. Then, each section of the city was basically cordoned off and cleared, building by building, room by room. Nasty, dirty work. Thank God we have the Marines, who are nastier and dirtier than anything the enemy can throw at us.
Operation Together Forward is focusing on four of the most violent neighborhoods of Baghdad: Doura, Mansour, Shula and Azamiyah. These are neighborhoods where the sectarian violence has been at its worst. Coalition forces have begun operations in Doura and Ameriya. In both cases, the neighborhoods were cordoned off, and each building was searched. "Kilometer after kilometer of barriers emplaced, building what some may call the semblance of a gated community, affording them greater security with ingress and egress routes established and manned by Iraqi security forces with coalition forces in support," as the Multinational Forces - Iraq press release describes the operation in Doura.
A similar strategy of cordon, search, secure and rebuild was successfully executed in Tal Afar, and is currently being executed in the Sunni insurgent stronghold city of Ramadi. Tal Afar, with populations of 170,000 was secured in less than a month, while Ramadi, with a population of 400,000 is still up for grabs.