Austin Bay plants some guideposts
Austin Bay suggests ways of measuring the state of play in Iraq. The measures are generally of two types: the first designed to measure security dominance and the second type calculated to measure Iraqi capability. Both types are suggested by common sense and it would be hard to find fault with them. However, there is one other type of measurement which should ideally be included, though it will be hard to quantify and accurately measure.
That measure is the degree to which radical Islamic ideologists, whether Sunni or Shi'a, regard Iraq as won or lost to their plans. This can be gaged by measuring the size of the recruitment pipeline funneling foreign Jihadists into Iraq; the dollar amount of money raised to drive the infidel American from Mesopotamia and finally, traffic, frequency and content analysis of subjects discussed in Jihadi websites. While it is unlikely that al-Qaeda, for example, will ever publicly admit defeat in Iraq, their actions could effectively concede it, if one were able to read the signs.
It's counterintuitive but nevertheless possible that a successful American campaign in Iraq could increase the short-term dangers to civilians in the West. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has consistently responded to political and military setbacks by seeking to attack unprotected flanks. Recently they massacred Yazidi minorities in response to their humiliating eviction from Anbar. It was not that the Yazidis were guilty of anything particular offensive (except for existing) in al-Qaeda's eyes, nor did the murder of hundreds of innocent civilians bring any conceivable military advantage. The Yazidis were killed simply because they could be; and more easily and cheaply than attempting to strike US troops or the Iraqi Army. Weakness marked them for death because the way of the wolf is to seek out the sheep, not the sheepdog.
The same logic unfortunately implies that one sign Islamic extremists have "given up" on Iraq is when they try their hand elsewhere. Nothing follows.