The “militant group” in question is, in fact, al Qaeda.

American forces have routed Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the Iraqi militant network, from every neighborhood of Baghdad, a top American general said today, allowing American troops involved in the “surge” to depart as planned.

Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr., commander of United States forces in Baghdad, also said that American troops had yet to clear some 13 percent of the city, including Sadr City and several other areas controlled by Shiite militias. But, he said, “there’s just no question” that violence had declined since a spike in June.

“Murder victims are down 80 percent from where they were at the peak,” and attacks involving improvised bombs are down 70 percent, he said.

I’ve heard similar information from an Army captain who until recently was commanding a tank platoon in east Baghdad. I’m hoping to interview him next week. We won’t bury that interview.

The surge is among the reasons for the decline in violence, along with the “awakenings,” improvements in the Iraqi army and the abatement of militia violence. The war in Iraq is too complex to be won or lost on any of those factors and a few others besides.

With less than two months to go before his division heads home, General Fil offered a mixed vision of the military’s role for the coming year. He said that if 2007 was the year of security, 2008 would probably be “a year of reconstruction, a year of infrastructure repair, and a year of, if there’s going to be a surge, a year of the surge of the economy.”

The bottom line is that as things are going now, we’re winning in Iraq. I didn’t say we’ve won, just that we’re winning.

So, wouldn’t you think this news would be big enough to warrant better placement than page A19?