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”). With the 28,500 “surge” forces withdrawn as of July 2008, Defense Department reports assess that overall violence is down as much as 80% since early 2007, to levels not seen since 2004, but that progress can be “fragile and tenuous” if not accompanied by fundamental political reconciliation and economic development. 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.
Politically, the Afghan central government is relatively stable, but it is perceived as weak and rife with corruption. The post-Taliban transition was completed with the convening of a parliament in December 2005 following September 2005 parliamentary elections. A new constitution was adopted in January 2004, and presidential elections were held on October 9, 2004. The parliament has become an arena for factions that have fought each other for nearly three decades to peacefully resolve differences, as well as a center of political pressure on President Hamid Karzai. Major regional strongmen have been marginalized. Afghan citizens are enjoying personal freedoms forbidden by the Taliban, and women are participating in economic and political life. Presidential elections are to be held in the fall of 2009, with parliamentary and provincial elections to follow one year later.