Thursday, June 14, 2007

News from Iraq

In all seriousness, I think the latest report out of Iraq is a mixed bag. I don't, however, view it as particularly surprising. I think the biggest feature of this article is the admission that we're having an impact in Anbar and Baghdad, two of the biggest trouble spots in the region.

Violence fell in Baghdad and Anbar province, where the bulk of the 28,700 more U.S. troops are located, but escalated elsewhere as insurgents and militias regroup in eastern and northern Iraq. In Anbar, attacks dropped by about a third, compared with the previous three months, as Sunni tribes have organized against entrenched fighters from al-Qaeda in Iraq, the report said.
It is important to note that we've actually driven the rats from their holes. To me this indicates that our counter-insurgency strategy is working. This is a good thing. Additionally, a rise in violence is not surprising when you're increasing the levels of troops present in a region. As I half-jokingly point out below, the amount of violence in western France increased dramatically from May to August in 1944. That doesn't necessarily imply that we're doing something wrong; I assure you, whatever casualties our boys are taking, they are inflicting very very many more on the enemy.

Also, the addition of Sunni tribes to our banners is a sign of shifting momentum in Iraq. A large part of counter-insurgency strategy involves isolating the anti-insurgent population from the insurgents, thus preventing them from becoming "bad guys" and protecting them from the bad guys. It also involves ensuring that the local population views the right people as the "good guys". As long as it appears to the locals that they can "end all of this now" by supporting Americans and resisting Al Qaeda we will continue to win.

I find it particularly encouraging that this report has spurned the squeaker of the house and the senate pejorativity leader to holler and scream about how we've already lost (again) even though the full effect of the "surge" can't be measured yet. Indeed, the increase in troop levels has occurred more as an incoming tide than a tidal wave, and is not even completed.

By all reports, the only truly damning sections of this are the lack of effectiveness of Iraqi security forces and the unwillingness of the government to actually do anything worthwhile.

As long as we're driving them out of our strong points and away from the locations we're choosing to control we're winning. As Dafydd at Big Lizards says, its all about turning Red to Pink and Pink to White.

Edit: Dafydd has a good post up here where he agrees with me and explains the tidal wave vs tide concept better than I have:
Let's start with a brief primer of what the counterinsurgency strategy actually entails (blue text represents preparation of the field of battle):
  1. Five new American brigades into Baghdad;
  2. Three additional Iraqi army brigades into Baghdad;
  3. Several new American battalions into Anbar;
  4. The objective is first to restore security to Baghdad and Anbar by driving insurgents out of the capital and out of al-Qaeda in Iraq's home province;
  5. After security is restored to those two provinces, the second objective is to expand that security to adjacent provinces (turning "red" to "pink" and "pink" to "white") by again driving insurgents outward (and killing or capturing them whenever possible);
  6. Continuing in this fashion, "expanding security outward," means that eventually, the insurgents have nowhere else to go in Iraq, and the country will be as pacified as any Arab Moslem country can be.
In other words, without even realizing it, the WaPo reports that the Pentagon reports that the insurgents are being driven out of Baghdad and Anbar -- before the main combat of the counterinsurgency has even begun.

...Which happens to be exactly the victory we want to see in bullet-point 4 above.