The mission to train Iraqi security forces continues. There are around 250,000 members of the Iraqi security forces now, but that is still not enough to maintain law and order here. President Bush has indicated that troops will be in Iraq at the least until the end of his term, but commanders on the ground here are contemplating some troop reductions in the coming months.
No one has ever stated that U.S. troops are expected to stay here long term, and suggestions last week that any bases are going to remain permanently were shot down recently by both U.S. and Iraqi officials.
Bob from Locust, N.C.: What percentage of Iraqis are now able to live a "normal" life, a life that isn't overly burdened by the effects of America's occupation?
Answer: This past week the State Department issued a stability assessment for internal discussion about how the country was doing on the governance, security, and economic front. Their conclusion was that only the Kurdish areas are relatively stable in all three areas. The Kurds make up about 20 percent of the population of the country.
Baghdad, where more than 25 percent of the population lives, is a city that lives in fear. There is a curfew at night, armed thugs patrol streets brandishing weapons, and violent crimes kill dozens each day. Insurgent violence means any area where crowds gather, like mosques or cafes, is a target for bomb attacks. Improvised Explosive Devices line main highways, mortar attacks into neighborhoods are common.
But life goes on somehow. People who have jobs try and go to work. Schools are open. Hospitals work. There are constant small steps to improve life and the conditions for having some normalcy in life. There is a Children's Theatre show that opens this week.
In the rural areas of southern Iraq, where the violence is less, people are getting on with trying to make a life. Economic conditions make that difficult, but that is not something you would only find in this country.
So, a rough guess is that 33 percent of Iraqis can enjoy a "normal" life as you describe it.
Benjamin Munoz from Las Vegas: Why doesn't the news media tell us the truth about the military casualties that are happening in Iraq. You people lie and underestimate the truth about what is happening. You sit in a very safe green zone and only publish what the government wants the American people to know.
Answer: I am not sure what you think we are not telling you about. Certainly the media has been criticized for a number of things; not telling the good news, not being supportive enough of our troops, not telling enough of the Iraqi side of the story. Any criticism is accepted, because everyone has certain aspects of the story they find more compelling. I can tell you that our reporting is based on the facts as we find them out, and that we are certain that we are reporting truthfully.