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A Moment of Transition in Iraq -- but not the End

CBS News Senior National Security Analyst Juan Zarate spotlighted the important shifts taking place in Iraq on "Washington Unplugged" Friday.

"The United States combat troops are out, we still have 50,000 troops there training and assisting; some hunting terrorists," Zarate told CBS News' Bob Orr. "You have a diplomatic transition. Chris Hill, our ambassador, is now leaving, he has his 'out' briefing this week...General Odierno, our top military commander on the ground, leaving in September. So this is a point of real transition."

"The problem," he continued, "is there's a lot of uncertainty politically because there is yet to be a government formed in Iraq. al-Qaeda in Iraq is continuing to attack. There was a horrific attack the heart of Baghdad just this week and questions of the Iraqi forces themselves can fill the gaps of the departing U.S. troops."

Orr asked Zarate about the reemergence of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was once seen as a threat that had passed. Zarate responded, "They are down and out, but they've hit very hard back. They've hit Sunni, Shia, government officials; hitting them with assassinations and a number of bombings. We saw the worst of them this week in Baghdad."

"For me there are two unanswered questions," he added. "One, for the United States, where are we taking this; we're supposed to be drawing down all of our troops come 2011. I think that question is going be up in the air depending on what happening on the ground in Iraq."

"Secondly, I've got a question as to how the president and this administration will portray Iraq and our policy in Iraq," Zarate said. "The President is in a tough position. He didn't like the war, he opposed it, he talked about withdrawing but he's the American president, how does he portray what it was that we sacrificed and did in Iraq at the end of the day."

Watch Friday's Washington Unplugged above, also featuring Zarate on the continuing humanitarian crisis in Pakistan, civil unrest in Kashmir and President Hamid Karzai's attempts to remove private security forces from Afghanistan.

"Washington Unplugged,"'s exclusive daily politics Webshow, appears live on each weekday at 2:00 p.m. ET. Click here to check out previous episodes.

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