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United States Army Gen. David Petraeus has delivered his long-awaited progress report on the situation in Iraq. To no one’s surprise, his conclusion is that there is slow progress and U.S. troops must remain in the country to avoid “rushing to failure.” The general failed, however, to answer the most important question of all: Do the tactical gains that Gen. Petraeus identified promote the political reconciliation that is the key to Iraq’s future? There, progress is virtually invisible.

At the beginning of 2007, U.S. President George W. Bush told the world that U.S. patience was not infinite and that a continuing U.S. troop presence in Iraq would depend on progress on 18 political and military benchmarks. The U.S. would demand tangible signs that Iraqis were taking responsibility for their country and moving ahead with the business of building a government and constructing a foundation upon which national reconciliation would rest. The U.S. military presence would provide “breathing space” for Iraq’s politicians, but they had to rise to the challenge, or the U.S. would withdraw.

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