One-Year Anniversary of Troop Surge

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Today marks the one-year anniversary of the U.S. troop surge in Iraq.

And a major reduction in violence has the U.S. military claiming success.

It was Valentine's Day last year, when an extra 30,000 troops headed toward the Baghdad area, amid talk of a civil war in Iraq.

Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents were fighting each other in and around the capital.

U.S. military spokesman Admiral Greg Smith says the troop surge triggered "a dramatic drop off in the levels of violence" by last fall.

The numbers back up that claim.

According to The Associated Press, 81 American soldiers and more than 1,800 Iraqis died in February of last year.

In January of this year, the number of American soldier deaths dropped by more than half to 39, and the number of Iraqi casualties was reduced by two-thirds to 609.

CBN reporter Chuck Holton recently returned from Iraq. He says the U.S. military is making tremendous progress.

"It's amazing when you're on the ground, and you're not getting your information from the mainstream media. What they're not seeing is the schools that are opening, the hospitals that are opening, the water purification projects," said Holton, a former Army Ranger.

"I think the best indicator of the progress that's been made and of how hopeful the situation is in Iraq is that the soldiers over there and sailors and marines are re-enlisting at record rates," he added.

The 82nd Airborne led the units that are now set to come home by the middle of this summer.

But will a troop pullout bring a setback? Holton says no.

"The biggest part of the surge is the Iraqi troops that have now had a chance to get a foothold in the neighborhoods that needed it the most, and those people are now well-trained enough, and they're taking back the country," he said.

Admiral Smith tells The Associated Press that the U.S. formed new alliances with Sunni tribes, and that also helped to push back al-Qaeda in Iraq.

But he says the terrorist group is still a threat, and the Iraqi government has not taken full advantage of the drop in violence to push for progress in the political arena.

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Mark Martin

Mark Martin

CBN News Reporter

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