A Sign Of Progress In Iraq?

There were 28 combat dead in November. Compare that to 120 killed last May as the troop surge was reaching full strength, reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin.

And even a hard-core critic like Democratic Congressman John Murtha, D-Pa., who once proclaimed the troop surge a failure, is impressed.

"I think the surge is working," Murtha said.

Most of the deaths were caused by what has always been the number one killer - roadside bombs; but the threat posed by so-called improvised explosives devices is nowhere near what it was just this summer.

"The IED attacks are down about 50 percent from a peak about three or four months ago," Ret. Gen. Montgomery Meigs says.

In the first six months of their deployment, the 10th Mountain Division had 93 vehicles destroyed by roadside bombs. In the last six months, just one.

Marines fighting in the once wild west of al Anbar province have not suffered a combat death since October 8.

Bethesda Naval Hospital used to care for as many as 50 wounded Marines at a time; today there are 10.

Have we reached a turning point in the war or is this just another phase?

"I think we're in another phase," says Paul Hughes of the U.S. Institute for Peace. "I don't think we can say we've reached a turning point that the outcome is now guaranteed."

Hughes worries most about Shiite militias loyal to the radical cleric Moktada al Sadr. He has declared a cease fire but it is only temporary.

"If there is some indicator that we can trust them to not come back out into the streets and fire on American or Iraqi security forces again, then I think we can say we've reached a turning point," Hughes says.

And will Iraqis fend for themselves once the surge ends and American troops start to leave? December is the month the drawdown begins in earnest.