This is an updated report from the Congressional Research Service on the security situation in Iraq and current challenges. "The Administration is claiming success in significantly reducing violence in Iraq to the point where additional U.S. troop reductions can be considered, attributing the gains to a 'troop surge' announced by President Bush on January 10, 2007 ('New Way Forward'). […] The Administration believes that additional 'conditions-based' reductions in U.S. forces, continued building of Iraq's security forces, and likely further political progress in Iraq -- is likely to produce a unified, democratic Iraq that can govern and defend itself and is an ally in the war on terror. The Administration argues that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is increasingly recognized as capable, and that Iraqi legislative action in Iraq since the beginning of 2008 represents a substantial measure of the progress on political reconciliation that was envisioned would be facilitated by the surge. However, U.S. disagreements with Maliki's proposed timeline for a U.S. withdrawal have prolonged negotiations on a U.S.-Iraq agreement that would govern the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq beyond December 2008. […] The progress comes after several years of frustration that Operation Iraqi Freedom had overthrown Saddam Hussein's regime, only to see Iraq wracked during 2004-2007 by […] Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence, competition among Shiite groups, and the failure of Iraq's government to equitably administer justice or deliver services. Mounting U.S. casualties and financial […] stimulated debate within the United States over whether the initial goals of the intervention -- a stable, democratic Iraq that is a partner in the global war on terrorism -- could ever be achieved, and at what cost."
CRS Report for Congress, RL31339