3 January Washington Times Op-Ed - 2006 in Iraq by MG Robert Scales (USA Ret.).

... The war in Iraq is culminating now. As in past wars it's just too soon to perceive the event with great clarity or certainty. The war will last beyond 2006 to be sure. But by next fall the outcome will not likely be in doubt. The question remains: How will it end? Which side will have the advantage after the culminating tide begins to recede? I appreciate the complexity of this war and the difficulties inherent in trying to forecast the outcome of a conflict in an alien region fought principally between contending sides that have very little in common with our culture and values. But we deserve some subjective means for determining who is going to come out on the upside of the culminating point. During the course of 2006 follow a few key events as they unfold and you might be able to answer that question for yourselves.

Security, security, security: Elections are wonderful events but right now the Iraqis value security far more than political freedom. To the Iraqi man in the street the legitimacy of the government now taking shape will not be gauged by its human-rights record or its ability to please the United States but by its ability to lessen horror on the streets. So watch the numbers. Relative violence has begun to recede across the country. You will know if the war has culminated in our favor if this trend accelerates.

Watch what happens in Baghdad: Capitals are often military centers of gravity. What happened on the streets of Paris often determined the fate of France. So too for Berlin, Cairo and Saigon. A key indicator of success will be how effectively the Iraqi security forces control Baghdad. Right now about half the city has been entrusted to them. The war has likely culminated in our favor if by the end of 2006 the Iraqis take over responsibility for protecting the capital...