Throughout the summer of 2007, as the troop surge in Iraq reached full strength, Gen. David H. Petraeus kept waiting for the tide to turn. By summer's end, the U.S. commander in Iraq got his wish. The high of 1,550 attacks a week fell below 800 -- nearly a 50 percent reduction. It has continued to fall over the past year. Why did the violence drop so dramatically?
On one level, the surge was beginning to have its intended effect. Doubling the U.S. forces in and around Baghdad from 17,000 to nearly 40,000, coupled with Petraeus's counterinsurgency game plan, had helped quell some of the sectarian and other violence that had defined the previous year and a half. About 30 joint security stations had been established around Baghdad; security along the borders with Iran and Syria had improved; and the Iraqi army was performing better.
In Washington, conventional wisdom translated these events into a simple view: The surge had worked. But the full story was more complicated. At least three other factors were as important as, or even more important than, the surge. These factors either have not been reported publicly or have received less attention than the influx of troops.