Two years ago, walking the streets of Baghdad was a dangerous expedition into the teeth of violence, but today, most inhabitants of the capital stroll without fear due to the decline in violence. The American military is slowly abandoning its presence in urban areas as Iraqi military steps up to assume responsibility for maintaining law and order. The goal is transforming control of Iraq cities to that nation’s military no later than June, 2009. President elect Obama has made clear he wants the focus to shift from Iraq to Afghanistan where he situation continues its slide into chaos.
The unknown aspect of the shift is what will happen when American forces no longer are in the major cities. Will it lead to renewed fighting between Sunni and Shiite factions? Will it encourage al-Qaeda to return to its violence? The success of withdrawing American forces lies in the ability of the Shiite Iraq government to cooperate with its Sunni citizens. There is still a question mark if Shiites and Sunni can cooperate.