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A US Army humvee patrols along Mosul's infamous Baghdad Highway. Iraqi officials declared Mosul the last urban stronghold of Al Qaeda in Iraq. Only months ago, Mosul was the communication and supply hub for Al Qaeda and other insurgent groups from the Syrian border to central Iraq before US and Iraqi forces pushed them into the rural, desert areas where they are believed to be regrouping in the western Jazeera desert. With the upcoming provincial elections in autumn, Iraqis and Americans are bracing themselves for renewed violence. Since early 2008, Iraq's security situation has improved with oil production increasing, record government surplus and easing sectarian tensions.