The surge had many components. The most prominent, of course, was the deployment of the additional U.S. forces committed by President Bush — nearly 30,000 of them in the end. Without those forces, we never could have achieved progress as quickly as we did. And, given the necessity to make progress by the hearings anticipated in September 2007, improvements before then were critical.

As important as the surge of forces was, however, the most important surge was what I termed “the surge of ideas” — the changes in our overall strategy and operational plans. The most significant of these was the shift from trying to hand off security tasks to Iraqi forces to focusing on the security of the Iraqi people. The biggest of the big ideas that guided the strategy during the surge was explicit recognition that the most important terrain in the campaign in Iraq was the human terrain — the people — and our most important mission was to improve their security. Security improvements would, in turn, provide Iraq’s political leaders the opportunity to forge agreements on issues that would reduce ethno-sectarian disputes and establish the foundation on which other efforts could be built to improve the lives of the Iraqi people and give them a stake in the success of the new state.

But improved security could be achieved only by moving our forces into urban neighborhoods and rural population centers. In the first two weeks, therefore, I changed the mission statement in the existing campaign plan to reflect this imperative. As I explained in that statement and the guidance I issued shortly after taking command, we had to “live with the people” in order to secure them. …