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Understanding the Surge in Iraq and What’s Ahead

There are three things the American people don’t understand about the war in Iraq right now: (1) how difficult the surge was and how different it was from the previous four years of the war; (2) that the surge failed, judged on its own terms; and (3) that the war is not over. In fact, I suspect we might be only halfway through it, which is to say that President Obama’s war in Iraq may well be longer than George Bush’s war in Iraq, which was five years and ten months old when Bush left office.

The difficulty of the surge is a major point of my new book, The Gamble. Americans at home either never understood or have forgotten just how hard the first six months of the surge were, from January 2007 into the summer of 2007. This period saw the six toughest months of fighting in the war to date. Gen. David Petraeus, looking back on it in my last interview with him, called the spring of 2007 a “horrific nightmare,” and this is not a man given to overstatement.

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