"The Obama Administration is facing a security environment in Iraq vastly improved over that which prevailed during 2005-2007, although rifts in Iraqi society are still not reconciled, providing the potential for the security situation to deteriorate significantly. The overall frequency of violence is down to post-Saddam low levels, yet, since May 2009, insurgents have increased high profile attacks designed to shake public confidence in the Iraqi government and security forces. These attacks did not derail the June 30, 2009, U.S. withdrawal of combat troops from major cities and have not, to date, caused a modification of the February 27, 2009, announcement by President Obama that all U.S. combat brigades would be withdrawn by August 31, 2010. The drawdown--from current U.S. troop levels of about 115,000--is expected to begin in earnest after Iraq's March 2010 national elections and leave a residual presence of about 50,000 U.S. trainers, advisers, and mentors. These are to be withdrawn by the end of 2011. The drawdown is in line with a U.S.-Iraq 'Security Agreement' that took effect January 1, 2009. Some U.S. officials caution against a prevailing belief that 'the war is over' and believe that further political progress is needed to produce a unified, democratic Iraq that can govern and defend itself and is an ally in the war on terror. Continuing ethnic and sectarian disputes-- particularly signs of new disillusionments among Sunni Arabs--are manifesting not only as high profile attacks against government facilities in Baghdad, but also as bombings directed against local politicians as Iraq heads toward the next national elections. Iraq's Christian community says it has suffered intimidation by both Arabs and Kurds, particularly near Mosul and Kirkuk. The factional splits among the elites greatly delayed passage of the election law needed to hold the national elections, and caused a postponement of the election until March 7, 2010. The splits between Maliki and his erstwhile Shiite allies, and with other competitors, have produced several strong, new coalitions that will challenge Maliki in the upcoming elections."
CRS Report for Congress, RL31339
U.S. Dept. of State, Foreign Press Centers: http://www.fpc.state.gov/