NPR logo Iraq and the Troop 'Surge'

Iraq

Iraq and the Troop 'Surge'

Local Iraqi villagers look on as a U.S. soldier approaches during an operation hunting al-Qaida militants in a village near Salman Pak, on the outskirts of south Baghdad, Jan.28, 2008. Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Image hide caption

toggle caption Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Image

Local Iraqi villagers look on as a U.S. soldier approaches during an operation hunting al-Qaida militants in a village near Salman Pak, on the outskirts of south Baghdad, Jan.28, 2008.

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Image

What Bush Said: President Bush tried to focus on a narrow part of the so-called "surge" of troops in Iraq. He said that the surge put al-Qaida on the defensive, forcing it from Baghdad and Anbar province into northern Iraqi cities like Mosul and to the remote areas south of Baghdad in Arab Jabour.

Analysis: The surge was designed to give the Iraqi government breathing space for reconciliation, and so far, there has been little of that. The legislation which the president sought and the "benchmarks" that he called for last year have largely not been met. There is no oil law. There have been no provincial elections. In his speech, the president noted that the Iraqi parliament recently passed a de-Baathification law; but he failed to mention that the measure is far more restrictive than the one the Bush administration had wanted.

Outlook in Congress: Congressional Democrats continue to criticize the Bush administration for what they call an open-ended commitment in Iraq. Lawmakers have balked at the cost and sometimes given the president less money than he sought. But Congress will likely continue to pay for the war.

On the Campaign Trail: The State of the Union speech will further divide the two parties. The Democratic presidential candidates keep saying they want to end the war. But they all want to keep some level of forces there to fight al-Qaida, train Iraqi forces and protect U.S. diplomats or humanitarian aid workers. On the Republican side, the candidates talk of success and victory, but have trouble defining it, or what will happen if the Iraqi government continues to stall on reconciliation. They haven't said how long U.S. troops should stay.

We no longer support commenting on NPR.org stories, but you can find us every day on Facebook, Twitter, email, and many other platforms. Learn more or contact us.