More good news you won’t get in the MSM:
Moving Forward in Iraq
The “surge” is working. Will Washington allow the current progress to continue?
BY KIMBERLY KAGAN
Wednesday, July 11, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
In Washington perception is often mistaken for reality. And as Congress prepares for a fresh debate on Iraq, the perception many members have is that the new strategy has already failed. This isn’t an accurate reflection of what is happening on the ground, as I saw during my visit to Iraq in May. Reports from the field show that remarkable progress is being made. Violence in Baghdad and Anbar Province is down dramatically, grassroots political movements have begun in the Sunni Arab community, and American and Iraqi forces are clearing al Qaeda fighters and Shiite militias out of long-established bases around the country.
This is remarkable because the military operation that is making these changes possible only began in full strength on June 15. To say that the surge is failing is absurd. Instead Congress should be asking this question: Can the current progress continue?
From 2004 to 2006, al Qaeda established safe havens, transport routes, vehicle-bomb factories and training camps in the rural areas surrounding Baghdad, where U.S. forces had little or no footprint. Al Qaeda used these bases to conduct bombings in Baghdad, to displace Shia and Sunni from local towns by sparking sectarian killings, and to force Iraqis to comply with the group’s interpretation of Islamic law.
Shiite death squads roamed freely around Baghdad and the countryside. The number of execution-style killings rose monthly after the Samarra mosque bombing of February 2006, reaching a high in December 2006. Iranian special operations groups moved weapons across the borders and into Iraq along major highways and rivers. U.S. forces, engaged primarily in training Iraqis, did little to disrupt this movement.Today, Iraq is a different place from what it was six months ago.
U.S. and Iraqi forces began their counterinsurgency campaign in Baghdad in February. They moved into the neighborhoods and worked side-by-side with Baghdadis. As a result, sectarian violence is down. The counterinsurgency strategy has dramatically decreased Shiite death squad activity in the capital. Furthermore, U.S. and Iraqi special forces have removed many rogue militia leaders and Iranian advisers from Sadr City and other locations, reducing the power of militias.
As a consequence, execution-style killings, the hallmark of Shiite militias, have fallen to the lowest level in a year; some Iranian- and militia-backed mortar teams firing on the Green Zone have been destroyed. Equally important, U.S. and Iraqi forces have restricted al Qaeda’s bases to ever smaller areas of the city, so that reinforcements cannot flow easily from one neighborhood to another.
Many in Washington say the Baghdad Security Plan has just pushed the enemy to other locations in Iraq. Though some of the enemy certainly left Baghdad when the security plan began, this metaphor is inaccurate. The enemy has long been located outside of Baghdad and was causing violence from suburban bases. What has changed is the disposition of U.S. forces, which are now actively working to expel the enemy from its safe havens rather than ignoring them.