Over the recent two to three weeks, it has been mentioned on current event talk shows that Baghdad will be receiving additional reinforcements via an American supplement of approximately 4,000 troops along with 4,000 Iraqi security forces. The hope is to repress the sectarian civil war and keep the unity government stable.
The question posed more often though is, "What is the next milestone?" The past markers that the Adminstration would point to as signs of success have all come and gone. Elections here, the constitutional process in terms of drafting and a vote, and then the formation of a final government were all followed by press announcements of how the citizens of Iraq were choosing democracy and freedom over terror and killing.
Yet now, there is nothing on the horizon that becomes the next marker in terms of progress. The United States will continue its occupation of the country and the American government has no immediate plans for a draw down in force structure on the table. The costs of operating in the arid land is close to 1.5 billion U.S. dollars per week. The cost in terms of injured and killed to American forces is a constant flow of a casualties daily, lately averaging two deaths per day, and several more wounded. A tally of Iraqi deaths is hard to gauge, but multi-execution reports are too numerous to list here, and often come in totals of the 50 to 80 variety.
So what can an American hope for in Iraq in the coming months? What is the United States' responsibility if the Maliki government in Baghdad collapses and a real power struggle breaks out? What happens if everything suddenly reverses itself and things become positively stable in every province of Iraq? What will the Bush Administration do to change course?