Today marks another milestone in free Iraq's history. The security of the once hugely violent province of Anbar is being transferred from the US military to the Iraqi government.
This progress would not have been possible if President Bush hadn't authorised the January 2007 surge of troops into Iraq. An extended report for yesterday's New York Times reviews the scale of opposition to that decision.
- The Democrats had just ended Republican control of the House and Senate. They and their presidential candidates were united in opposition to an "escalation" in Iraq.
- A few Republican politicians, led by Chuck Hagel, were breaking ranks with the White House and publicly speaking out against a surge.
- Outgoing Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was opposed to extra deployments.
- Zalmay Khalilzad, then US Ambassador to Iraq, recommended that an increase in troops would lead to a less sustainable position.
- The Pentagon was saying that the US military was already too overstretched.
- The bipartisan Iraq Study Group was about to report and recommend an accelerated handover to Iraq and a withdrawal of all US troops by spring 2008. These recommendations received massive attention at the time and, incidentally, were endorsed by William Hague.
- A classified paper by America's Joint Chiefs of Staff echoed the ISG report and called for an accelerated switch to Iraqi military leadership.
- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (who had and has reverted to the 'realistic' foreign policy school) favoured a withdrawal to the periphery of Baghdad and a focus on combating terrorism and Iranian aggression. This was the exact opposite of what General Petraeus recommended and eventually implemented - a moving into neighbourhoods and staying there to keep them safe. Rice's view was "that there was little the military could do to stop sectarian violence".
- Iraq's PM, Maliki, was also concerned at the consequences of an increase in troops and the risks of a public backlash.
- General Casey, then US Commander in Iraq, was unconvinced and only ever supported an increase of 8,000 troops.
In the face of such opposition President Bush's statement of 10th January 2007 - committing more than 20,000 extra troops - was a massive risk. Thankfully (urged on by one John McCain) he took it.