A Turning Point in Iraq?

In addition, American officers in northern Iraq highlight continuing problems such as crime, lack of electricity and a worsening drought that goes back three years.

Along with counterinsurgency operations, those officers are also in charge of reconstruction assistance across 47,000 square miles of territory, an area about the size of the state of Georgia.

Hertling believes the economy is now the priority for Iraqis. "Six months ago when I walked through a market, they would say we need better security," he said. "They're not saying that anymore. They have the security. Now what they're saying is we need better jobs, assistance with micro loans."

The final part of the jigsaw is political reconciliation. Hertling said that this ultimately means an "understanding that no longer can you get your way with a gun."

He believes that some insurgents have grown tired of fighting. "A group came into one of our cities in Balad about a week ago and turned in their weapons, and said we can't get power by the gun, we've got to get power [through] ... the upcoming election. That's a huge shift, very important.

"They've got to work through some challenges for sure, but when you talk to the people on the street they want to be a patriotic nation. They want to be a people who love their country. They want to have success, and they know how rich this country is. It's a matter of time now. They've got the power, they've got the love of country and now they have the hope."

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