[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/23/art.mccain.7.16.jpg caption="McCain said 'victory' is in sight in Iraq Sunday."]
Sen. John McCain, in a speech on September 21 to the National Guard Association of the United States, spoke about Iraq, citing his support of the "surge" and the strides it has fostered in the war. In the address, McCain repeated a statement that he made elsewhere that "victory in Iraq is finally in sight."
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Commanders and government officials continue to laud what they describe as dramatic progress in Iraq, but they have been careful to warn that challenges remain. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in testimony on September 23 before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he worries "that the great progress our troops and the Iraqis have made has the potential to override a measure of caution borne of uncertainty."
Gates said the conflict has "entered the endgame - and our decisions today and in the months ahead will be critical to regional stability and our national security interests for years to come. Our military commanders do not yet believe our gains are necessarily enduring and they believe that there are
still many challenges and potential for reversals in the future."
He also said, "I would also urge our leaders to keep in mind that we should expect to be involved in Iraq for years to come, though in changing and increasingly limited ways." Gen. David Petraeus, the former top U.S. military commander in Iraq, praised troops in a September 15 letter, but said "our tasks in Iraq are far from complete and hard work and tough fights lie ahead."
Gen. Raymond Odierno, Petraeus' successor as the No. 1 U.S. commander in Iraq, said on September 16 that "as we've said many times, everyone is encouraged by the progress that has been made here in Iraq, but we still have a lot of work to do. We are in a fragile state now. What I want to do is build it to a more stable state. And I think we're in the process of doing it. It just takes some time and it's slow."
Verdict: In Dispute. McCain, elated by Iraq strides, sees "victory in sight."
Top commanders and officials see great progress, but warn that hard-won
gains could easily be reversed.