"Operation Iraqi Freedom overthrew Saddam Hussein's regime, but during 2004- 2007 much of Iraq was highly violent because of Sunni Arab resentment and a related insurgency, resulting Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence, competition among Shiite groups, and the failure of Iraq's government to equitably administer justice or deliver services. U.S. casualties and financial costs -- without clear movement toward national political reconciliation among Iraq's major communities -- 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 be achieved, and at what cost. The Administration is claiming success in reversing the deterioration in security that became acute by the end of 2006, attributing the gains to a 'troop surge' strategy announced by President Bush on January 10, 2007 ('New Way Forward'). The centerpiece of the strategy was the deployment of an additional 28,500 U.S. forces to help stabilize Baghdad and to take advantage of growing tribal support for U.S. policy in Anbar Province. U.S. commanders say that overall violence is down at least 60% since June 2007, to levels of spring 2005, although further reductions have been difficult to achieve. The Administration argues that Iraqi legislative action in Iraq since the beginning of 2008 represents a substantial measure of the progress on political reconciliation that was envisioned by the surge, but critics differ with the degree of such political progress and say that security gains are therefore tenuous. An outbreak of intense and widespread fighting in late March between Shiite-dominated government forces and Shiite militias throughout Iraq -- representing broader intra- Shiite competition and in which government forces have not accomplished their objectives -- casts additional doubt on the results of the surge."
CRS Report for Congress, RL31339
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