Thursday, June 28, 2007

The American Offensive Rolls In Iraq

As I observed last week, all previous commentary about the "surge" in Iraq and any evaluations of whether it was working yet were grossly premature. The US was merely building its forces and preparing the ground up to now—and the current massive operation is the real surge that we have only just begun to launch.

Ronbo sent me a link to an excellent, must-read overview of the new counter-insurgency strategy by one of General Petraeus's advisors. I won't excerpt this article, because it is too good and too informative to condense into a few quotes. But if you want to understand the "big picture" of what we are doing now in Iraq, and the reasoning behind it, go read this article.

For my excerpts, I chose a Los Angeles Times article that offers much less analysis but gives an on-the-ground "feel" for the nature of the campaign. Note particularly the anecdote about the young widow of an insurgent sniper who describes how she begged her husband to quit the fight because "doing the things he was doing can only end in death." That is precisely what we want the enemy's supporters to conclude.

The New York Times also has an interesting report that gives a feel for the scale and house-flattening destructiveness of the new campaign.

Unfortunately, al-Qaeda has also mounted one successful counter-attack: a bomb attack that killed Sunni tribal leaders who had allied themselves with the Iraqi government against al-Qaeda. We'll see whether this makes the sheiks afraid to oppose al-Qaeda—or whether this hardens their opposition to the terrorists.

"Militants' Baqubah Fiefdom Is Liberated," Alexandra Zavis, Los Angeles Times, June 26 For more than a year, hundreds of masked gunmen loyal to Al Qaeda cruised this capital of their self-declared state, hauling Shiite Muslims from their homes and leaving bodies in the dusty, trash-strewn streets.

They set up a religious court and prisons, aid stations and food stores. And they imposed their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam on a population that was mostly too poor to flee and too terrified to resist.

US and Iraqi soldiers last week pushed into this city that has been the heart of the Sunni Arab militants' fiefdom, in a campaign to bring three lawless neighborhoods under government control. What they found was a chilling indication of the ability of Sunni Arab insurgents to run a rival state, even as US troops prepared to wipe them out….

US Army Col. Stephen Townsend, who commands the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, based in Ft. Lewis, Wash., said the assault had denied the insurgents a major bastion and helped secure this city of about 300,000 residents.

"There ain't no capital of the Islamic State of Iraq anymore," Townsend told reporters Monday at a base on the city's northern outskirts….

Among the dead was a suspected sniper believed to have killed at least one US soldier. When the Americans visited his house, the man's aging father said he had disowned his son and persuaded two younger sons to quit the movement. The man's young wife said she had pleaded with her husband to do the same.

"I told him he has a family now," she said, trembling slightly as she sat on the kitchen floor, cradling a baby boy and answering the soldiers' questions. "Doing the things he was doing can only end in death, and that is what happened."

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