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[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/OPINION/08/19/diamond.iraq.withdrawal/story.us.soldiers.iraq.afp.gi.jpg caption="U.S. combat troops must withdraw from Iraq by the end of this month, and all American troops must be out 2011." width=300 height=169]
With the departure of the last U.S. combat brigade from Iraq, the Obama administration has taken a large stride toward its goal of complete American military withdrawal from Iraq by the end of next year. And there are many other signs of progress.
The rate of Iraqi civilian deaths in political violence has fallen by 90 percent from its awful peak in 2006, before "the surge" in American forces and strategy began to roll back the insurgent challenge.
American military deaths in Iraq have fallen to 46 so far this year, by far the lowest level since the American invasion in March 2003, and again a 90 percent decline from the pace of casualties in 2007. In March of this year, Iraq held the most democratic election any Arab country has held in a generation (with the possible exception of Lebanon).
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