For the past 11 days, Retired Army Gen. Jack Keane has visited some of Iraq's most volatile areas to assess how the troop surge is going. Keane is one of the architects of the President Bush's new Iraq policy and an ABC News consultant, and spoke with Charles Gibson from Baghdad with his assessment of the progress. Here are some excerpts from their conversation.
Gen. Keane: First of all, a lot has changed in Iraq, in a year. The situation has gotten considerably more dire, certainly, and when you take a look at Baghdad itself … there's neighborhoods down there where people really aren't living in any more.
Charles Gibson: Do you get a sense that this security crackdown can have an effect, long term, on sectarian violence?
Keane: I definitely think so. First of all, we're in the very opening stages of this. There's only one brigade here from the United States, and obviously four more to arrive. However, the Iraqi 10 brigades have showed up and that's a big plus. … There's no doubt in my mind we'll bring the violence down, not just a little bit, but significantly.
Gibson: You get a chance to talk to American commanders. Do they think [Prime Minister] Maliki is serious about being willing to crack down on Shiite militias, and to do something to bring the Sunnis back into the realm of the government?
Keane: I think every commander here has some skepticism about Maliki's long-term determination, but the fact is they're all encouraged by the early steps that he's taken.
Gibson: And you mention that more Iraqi troops are coming online. Do the American commanders, as you meet with them on this trip, have confidence that these are good troops that can eventually take control themselves?
Keane: In time, they can do this. But first we have to bring the level of violence down so … it'll be within their level of capability.
Gibson: But what is the present estimation of the American commanders of what you mean by "in time"?
Keane: In time, they can do this, but first we have to bring the level of violence down. So we'll need well into the summer to make some genuine progress in Baghdad, where people will feel comfortable. It'll probably take into the fall to secure Baghdad.
Gibson: To what extent are people there watching closely what's going on in the debate in Washington?
Keane: Most of the troops don't pay much attention to it. They've got so much going on in front of them here, in their everyday lives, they're so focused on that … as far as the leaders are concerned, they're very much aware that the military timetable to accomplish this mission and the political timetable are not the same and … that the political timetable is probably shorter.