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“The partnership is going to be the nucleus of everything,” said a senior 4th Infantry Division officer, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the topic. “And we have already been doing that as long as we´ve been here. … We recognize it´s a partnership deal, and we have set all our pieces in place to ensure we’re working together in one direction.”

The agreement is being implemented at a crucial time for Iraq. U.S. officials report that the level of violence is at its lowest in years — an average of 10 attacks per day, compared with 180 per day a year ago — but also caution that an uptick in violence could coincide with provincial elections at the end of January.

Al Qaeda, although disrupted, continues to pose a threat to security in Baghdad. Col. Hort estimates that as many as 100 al Qaeda operatives are in his area of operation.

Iranian-influenced “special groups,” although lying low, also could pose problems.

On Saturday, more than 20 people were killed in Baghdad by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. An American soldier was killed and an Iraqi Security Force member was wounded by an IED on Sunday.

A major focus of military operations in the Baghdad area has been to deny extremists the wherewithal for violence. According to 4th Infantry Division figures, from early October to early November, more than 1,800 mortars were seized as well as about 50 rockets, 78 hand grenades and 180 pounds of C-4 explosive.