Citing a 60 percent drop in violence in Iraq over the last six months, Gen. David Petraeus stated Thursday that maintaining security is easier than establishing it and gives him more flexibility in deploying forces.
Backed by charts indicating that as of Wednesday, weekly attacks and Iraqi civilian deaths have declined to levels not seen in Iraq since early 2006, the top American general in Iraq said the reduction lets him make force adjustments to address remaining problem areas, which would include northern Iraq.
Speaking to reporters at the U.S. military's Camp Victory, he conveyed the improved security is due to a number of factors including a "a reduction in some of the signature attacks that are associated with weapons provide by Iran," as well as a key cease-fire called by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Still, Petreaus refused to offer too much optimism. "Nobody says anything about turning a corner, seeing lights at the end of tunnels, any of those other phrases," said Petraeus, according to the AP. "You just keep your head down and keep moving."
According to him, around Thanksgiving commanders looked back at violence levels a year ago, and six months ago, and found a declining line in which violence had dropped from a time when hundreds of Iraqis died and were injured and US troops took heavy losses in a number of horrific attacks, to a time of still somewhat steady but less deadly attacks, to a day last month when there were just 45-50 attacks.
Petraeus met for about an hour Thursday with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who was in Iraq for his sixth visit in the past year. "There's nobody in uniform who is doing victory dances in the end zone," said Petraeus.