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Iraq Surge Successes And Setbacks
A US soldier from Baker Company 2-12 Infantry Battalion aims his weapon to provide security while his comrades jump over a concrete wall to take cover in their trucks after insurgents detonated an IED or Improvised Explosive Device, 20 metres from their position during a foot patrol through the streets of the predominantly Sunni al-Dora neighborhood of southern Baghdad, 18 March 2007. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said today it was too soon to know whether the recent
A US soldier from Baker Company 2-12 Infantry Battalion aims his weapon to provide security while his comrades jump over a concrete wall to take cover in their trucks after insurgents detonated an IED or Improvised Explosive Device, 20 metres from their position during a foot patrol through the streets of the predominantly Sunni al-Dora neighborhood of southern Baghdad, 18 March 2007. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said today it was too soon to know whether the recent "surge" of thousands of additional US troops in Iraq is quelling rampant sectarian violence, as the military separately announced that eight more US troops have died in Iraq, six of them in separate bomb attacks in and around Baghdad. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) March 16, 2007
Latest figures from Baghdad provide that the good news that despite continued horrendous Sunni insurgent terror attacks on Shiite civilians, the new U.S. surge policy in the Iraqi capital is beginning to bite. Levels of violence, terror attacks and civilian casualties suffered fell significantly in February, largely because the greatly augmented direct U.S. military presence inhibited Sunni and Shiite militia forces from major battles with each other. The number of civilians kidnapped and murdered by the militias, especially Shiite ones, also appears to be significantly down.

There has also been good news from some population centers in the notorious "Triangle of Death" region of Anbar Province in western Iraq. UPI Pentagon Correspondent Pamela Hess, in a series of dispatches from towns in the region such as Haditha, Mahmoudiyah and al-Qaim, has documented the success of U.S. Marine forces and their Iraqi allies in restoring law and order in locations where Sunni insurgents had previously run rampant, massacring everyone who could be construed as their enemy.

What's not to like?

The successes of the new U.S. forces in Baghdad and of the Marines in Anbar are real: The problem is that, in both cases, the successes are limited in both area and duration.

For the current surge strategy of sending around 26,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq and concentrating most of them, and other forces too, in Baghdadis widely believed to be only temporary in nature. And even then, the troops are too few.

We have previously noted in these columns that the counter-insurgency manual of the U.S. Army co-authored by Gen. David Petraeus, the new U.S. ground forces commander in Iraq, calls for far higher concentrations of American troops in the Iraqi capital of six million people to decisively defeat the insurgency there.

Indeed, Charles Henderson, a veteran U.S. Marine with extensive combat experience in Vietnam and Lebanon told UPI International Editor Claude Salhani this week that half a million U.S. troops would be required to secure Baghdad. That would work out at one American soldier for every 12 Iraqi civilians in the city. Half a million U.S. troops is also more than three times the total U.S. military force in the whole of Iraq.

Further, as Anthony Cordesman, who holds the Arleigh A. Burke chair in strategy at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies warned in a new analysis released this week, U.S. policymakers run the risk of ceding control once again of many of Iraq's provinces to the insurgents as the U.S. military presence in them is stripped to provide the military muscle needed to restore security in Baghdad.

Hess's reporting for UPI also testified to the grim reality that wherever U.S. Marine contingents were redeployed from towns and areas they had secured in Anbar Province, the insurgents often rapidly returned and massacred everyone who had or who was suspected of having cooperated with the American forces. Unfortunately, there is no reason to doubt that this horrific pattern may be repeated again -- and again.

It is also striking that, despite the real progress now being reported from Baghdad, many U.S. Army and Marine senior officers privately remain pessimistic about any prospects of the war being won, or the strategic goal of a stable, peaceful and pro-American government being established in a lasting way over the country in the foreseeable future.

The underlying reasons for this strategic pessimism in the face of so many tactical successes are familiar to regular readers of these columns: Far from creating a stable national government with abroad consensual base, as Bush administration policymakers confidently expected, the democratic elections and parliamentary process instead produced a heavily sectarian government, with extremely unreliable Iraqi security forces, while real power flowed into the sectarian militias, especially the Shiite ones.

Security in Iraq therefore now only exists in small and temporary bubbles where-ever over-worked, under-manned and over-deployed U.S. military units continue to serve with excellence, bravery and dedication where-ever they are deployed. But the U.S. armed forces do not have enough of them to secure all of Iraq even for a few months, let alone for years, or indefinitely into the future.

After so many years of bad news from Iraq, we may expect more weeks or months of good news, though that will be conditional on U.S. policymakers not fatally alienating the main Shiite militias in the event of U.S. air strikes against the nuclear facilities in neighboring Iran.

However, even if the tactical good news continues, the strategic vacuum caused by the inability of the Iraqi government structure, and its unreliable and far too rapidly trained security forces to provide it remains.

Source: United Press International

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