By Melinda L. Larson
American Forces Press Service
Dec. 23, 2007 - Violence is down about 60 percent in Iraq since the June troop surge, and the top military commander in Iraq said today that he wants the trend to continue in 2008. "Every trend we watch is down roughly about 60 percent: civilian deaths, numbers of attacks, and thankfully our casualties are down as well," said Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, said on "Fox News Sunday." "As we go into the new year, we clearly want to build on the momentum that has been achieved by our forces working closely together with Iraqi forces."
Petraeus said Iraqi forces also had a surge this year, with 110,000 new Iraqi soldiers and police. Petraeus appeared on the morning news program to discuss the release of this week's quarterly report, "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq." With the success of the surges comes the question of reducing the number of U.S. forces in Iraq while maintaining the positive trends, he said.
"We want to reduce the strain on our ground forces as much as we can while recognizing that what has been achieved here remains tenuous and is still fragile in a number of areas," the general said. "We have laid out a plan that will take us through the end of July, and it will result in the reduction without replacement of about one-quarter of our combat forces."
Petraeus was cautious about committing to further troop reductions and reiterated that al Qaeda remains a significant threat. "Al Qaeda remains a very dangerous and very lethal organization, and it is one that will continually try to reconstitute and one that we must pursue tenaciously and relentlessly, and that is what we and our Iraqi partners are doing," Petraeus said.
When reporter Chris Matthews asked the general why success in Iraq is not newsworthy, noting a Media Research Center report that news stories from Iraq dropped in the evening nightly network newscasts from 178 news stories in September to 68 stories in November, the general said he sees that as a positive sign.
"In a sense, no news is good news, and we're not reluctant to see that," Petraeus said. "The only reluctance would be that America continues to remember its soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilians who are serving out here in this very important endeavor."
As the interview concluded, Petraeus praised the men and women he leads in Iraq. "Especially at this season, we all should be grateful for what these great young men and women are doing and for the sacrifices of their families who are enduring separations back home. It is a privilege to serve with America's new greatest generation here in Iraq."