Iraqi soldiers celebrate during a ceremonial handover of Camp Echo from the U.S military forces to Iraqi security forces in Diwaniya, 2011.
Thaier al-Sudani / Courtesy Reuters

By September 2008, when General Raymond Odierno replaced General David Petraeus as the top commander of the Multi-National Force-Iraq, there was a prevalent sense among Americans that the surge of additional U.S. forces into the country in 2007 had succeeded. With violence greatly reduced, the Iraq war seemed to be over. In July 2008, U.S. President George W. Bush had announced that violence in Iraq had decreased "to its lowest level since the spring of 2004" and that a significant reason for this sustained progress was "the success of the surge."

The surge capitalized on intra-Shiite and intra-Sunni struggles to help decrease violence, which created the context for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. With U.S. troops on pace to depart entirely by December 2011, Iraqis held successful national elections last March and, after nine months of wrangling, eventually formed a broadly inclusive government in December 2010. But Odierno -- for

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  • EMMA SKY served as Chief Political Adviser to General Raymond Odierno, Commanding General of the Multi-National Force-Iraq from 2008 to 2010.
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