"The U.S. military 'surge' initiated in mid-2007 in Baghdad and neighboring Iraqi provinces has been largely successful in military terms. It has helped to lower the level of violence suffered by Iraqis and Americans alike and, in tandem with other steps, has restored a measure of security to western Iraq and portions of Baghdad. Yet military operations alone are insufficient to restore stability and keep the country intact. As the surge approaches its midpoint, the Iraqi government still shows little progress toward political reconciliation. As if the political stalemate in Baghdad were not enough, Iraq in the months ahead will face three other potentially explosive political events: provincial elections, a controversial census, and a referendum to determine who will govern oil-rich Kirkuk. To build on the achievements of the military surge, the United States must have four priorities. First, Washington must continue to support the elected government in Baghdad, helping it to establish its authority through the consensual exercise of power. Second, the United States must encourage provincial elections as a vehicle for political reform and for loosening the hold of sectarian loyalty upon the political process. Third, efforts to build a truly national Iraqi military force recruited from all sectors of the population must be reinforced. Fourth, tangible cooperation between Iraq and its neighbors on border security must be achieved in order to reduce the flow of money and foreign fighters that stokes the insurgencies."
Strategic Forum (February 2008), no.230
National Defense University, Institute for National Strategic Studies: http://www.ndu.edu/inss/