Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Iraq Moving Forward

Frederick Kagan at the Weekly Standard.
America has won an important battle in the war on terror. We turned an imminent victory for Al Qaeda In Iraq into a humiliating defeat for them and thereby created an opportunity for further progress not only in Iraq, but also in the global struggle. In the past five months, terrorist operations in and around Baghdad have dropped by 59 percent. Car bomb deaths are down by 81 percent. Casualties from enemy attacks dropped 77 percent. And violence during the just-completed season of Ramadan--traditionally a peak of terrorist attacks--was the lowest in three years.

Winning a battle is not the same as winning a war. Our commanders and soldiers are continuing the fight to ensure that al Qaeda does not recover even as they turn their attention to the next battle: against Shia militias sponsored by Iran. Beyond Iraq, battles in Afghanistan and elsewhere demand our attention. But let us properly take stock of what has been accomplished.

I'm of the opinion that it is still to early to be declaring victory with regards to the insurgency. It does appear that Al-Qaeda miscalculated on how to run the insurgency in Iraq. Pretty much appears to be a theme with regards to all the players on the field.
Al Qaeda leaders seem aware of their defeat. General Ray Odierno noted in a recent briefing that some of al Qaeda's foreign leaders have begun to flee Iraq. Documents recovered from a senior Al Qaeda In Iraq leader, Abu Usama al-Tunisi, portray a movement that has lost the initiative and is steadily losing its last places to hide. According to Brigadier General Joseph Anderson, chief of staff for the multinational coalition in Iraq, al-Tunisi wrote that "he is surrounded, communications have been cut, and he is desperate for help."
This is a little over stated. No doubt Al Qaeda is substantially marginalized at this point. The problem with network based groups like Al Qaeda is that they can reappear after being completely demolished. The ability for cells to spontaneously develop is fairly well understood. The good thing though is that there doesn't appear to be many regions that continue to view supporting Al Qaeda as a good idea. Frankly, I never would have believed a year ago that Anbar province would be at the level of stability it is today.

Interesting analysis on why Al Qaeda is loosing Anbar.
Al Qaeda excesses in Anbar Province and elsewhere had already begun to generate local resentment, but those local movements could not advance without our help. The takfiris--as the Iraqis call the sectarian extremists of al Qaeda--brutally murdered and tortured any local Sunni leaders who dared to speak against them, until American troops began to work to clear the terrorist strongholds in Ramadi in late 2006. But there were not enough U.S. forces in Anbar to complete even that task, let alone to protect local populations throughout the province and in the Sunni areas of Iraq. The surge of forces into Anbar and the Baghdad belts allowed American troops to complete the clearing of Ramadi and to clear Falluja and other takfiri strongholds.
Pretty much reads like most historical insurgencies that failed. Or historical counterinsurgencies that failed for that matter. Terrorism usually has a part, but if overdone alienates the public support that is needed for success.

Kagan addresses the Shia militia problems:
Some now say that, although America's soldiers were successful in this task, the next battle is hopeless. We cannot control the Shia militias, they say. The Iraqis will never "reconcile." The government will not make the decisions it must make to sustain the current progress, and all will collapse. Perhaps. But those who now proclaim the hopelessness of future efforts also ridiculed the possibility of the success we have just achieved. If one predicts failure long enough, one may turn out to be right. But the credibility of the prophets of doom--those who questioned the veracity and integrity of General David Petraeus when he dared to report progress--is at a low ebb.
Reconciliation seems to be the hard one. That's part of the reason the Iraqi central government looks to be moving toward a fairly weak national government. More control in the specific provinces will likely assist in settling the over all tensions. Though the oil revenue issue still will be a thorn for many of the provinces.

Let's hope there is continuing reasons to be as optimistic as Kagan is here.

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