After months of declaring the decreased violence in Iraq “fragile and reversible,” incoming CENTCOM chief General David Petraeus strayed somewhat off-script in a speech today to the Association of the U.S. Army. He once against reiterated the “fragile and reversible” nature of the gains, but said that “with each passing day there is a little bit less of that fragility.”
The general like the rest of the administration has credited the surge with the decline in violence. But a recently published report uses satellite data to show that the decline in violence was a product of the displacement of millions of Iraqis in sectarian cleansing as opposed to anything done by an extra 38,000 American soldiers.
And indeed, Gen. Petraeus had declared all of the surge’s military goals achieved more than a year ago, yet he and other Pentagon officials have pressed the President to keep troops at above pre-surge levels through the end of his administration.
But though the violence is on the wane, the ethnic and sectarian tensions that led to them still remain. As the declining violence begins to lure home some of the millions of Iraqis displaced internally and abroad, they may find the neighborhoods they fled no more welcoming than they left them.