Surge Complete, But Some Question Progress

With 160,000 troops on the ground, the U.S. troop surge is now complete. But some question the effectiveness of the tactic.

U.S. casualties have risen. At least 478 have died since the surge began in February.

On the other hand, the military already has made some headway in Baghdad and surrounding provinces, particularly against al Qaeda extremists. Some generals said a gradual draw-down could begin early next year.

"We could have a reduction of force that could begin in January of 2008," said Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon.

Some have said they've seen progress, particularly in the major shopping districts.

"Security here is very good," said one man in a central Baghdad neighborhood. "But there are other areas I cannot go to."

However, little progress has been made on the political front. Iraqi politicians have failed to use the gradual improvement in security to hold reconciliation talks and pass much-needed laws in parliament.

Lawmakers are gearing up for what could be a pivotal week and perhaps determine when U.S. troops could begin to come home from Iraq.

Two prominent and well-respected senior Republican senators, John Warner, R-Va., and Dick Lugar, R-Ind., said they will push President Bush to end the war. But the legislation does not require the president to take any specific action.

The White House has indicated it opposes the Warner-Lugar effort.

"We respect Sens. Warner and Lugar and will review carefully the language they have proposed," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said in a statement. But, he added, "we believe the new way forward strategy, which became fully operational less than a month ago, deserves the time to succeed. We look forward to hearing from Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker in September."

The Warner-Lugar legislation, which the two Republicans hope to introduce as an amendment to the Defense Department authorization bill currently being debated on the floor of the Senate, directs the president to present to the Congress by Oct. 16 a new strategy in Iraq -- one executable by the end of 2007 -- that would transition U.S. forces from "policing the civil strife or sectarian violence in Iraq." U.S. troops would be redeployed "as conditions permit" and would be steered towards training Iraqi security forces, staging counterterrorism operations, and guarding Iraqi borders.

Significantly, the bill would not require the president to begin actually carrying out the plan.