Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The War In Iraq is Over - We Won

Bing West says: "The war I witnessed for more than five years in Iraq is over." He says:

In July, there were five American fatalities in Iraq, the lowest since the war began in March 2003. ... For the first time in 15 trips across the country, I didn't hear one shot or a single blast from a roadside bomb.

What won the war?

The war turned around in late 2006 because American troops partnered with Iraqi forces and tribal auxiliaries to protect the population. Feeling safe, the population informed on the militias and terrorists living among them. Then, in the spring of 2008, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki attacked the Mahdi militia of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr that controlled Basra and half of Baghdad. The militia crumbled under pressure from Iraqi soldiers backed by coalition intelligence and air assets.

Gen. David Petraeus's executive officer, Peter Mansoor explains how the 'Surge' strategy worked:
Too often we hear that the dramatic security improvement in Iraq is due not to the surge but to other, unrelated factors and that the positive developments of the past 18 months have been merely a coincidence.

To realize how misleading these assertions are,one must understand that the "surge" was more than an infusion of reinforcements into Iraq. Of greater importance was the change in the way U.S. forces were employed starting in February 2007, when Gen. David Petraeus ordered them to position themselves with Iraqi forces out in neighborhoods. This repositioning was based on newly published counterinsurgency doctrine that emphasized the protection of the population and recognized that the only way to secure people is to live among them.

... As U.S. units established smaller outposts and destroyed al-Qaeda havens, the area under Iraqi and coalition control expanded. Security improved dramatically after the last surge units arrived and the Multi-National Corps-Iraq, under Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, commenced a relentless series of operations to drive insurgents out of their long-held sanctuaries.

Improved security led to greater Iraqi confidence and lessened the need for, and acceptance of, Shiite militias that for too long held sway in many neighborhoods.

Stratfor's War: Five Years Later is an assessment of what went wrong and what went right in the war in Iraq. In Stratfor’s view, the war went through four phases:

* Winter 2002-March 2003: The period that began with the run-up to invasion, in which the administration chose the best of a bad set of choices and then became overly optimistic about the war’s outcome.
* April 2003-Summer 2003: The period in which the insurgency developed and the administration failed to respond.
* Fall 2003-late 2006: The period in which the United States fought a multisided war with insufficient forces and a parallel political process that didn’t match the reality on the ground.
* Late 2006 to the present: The period known as the surge, in which military operations and political processes were aligned, leading to a working alliance with the Sunnis and the fragmentation of the Shia. This period included the Iranians restraining their Shiite supporters and the United States removing the threat of war against Iran through the National Intelligence Estimate.

In my view, we can consider that the United States waged three separate wars to win the peace: The first war against Saddam Hussein's regime; a second war against the forces of internal conflict and sectarianism, both Sunni (Baathist remnants) and Shiite (Mahdi Army), who were waging a fight against the 'democratic center' in Iraq and the US supported Government; third, a war against the terrorists, including Al Qaeda in Iraq (under Zarqawi), who had come to Iraq to fight the US and to sow anarchy.

We have now decisively won all three conflicts. The "surge" defeated Al Qaeda and dismantled (or turned) the remains of the Sunni resistance in Baghdad, Al Anbar and elsewhere in 2007; we are now mopping up. The decisive actions this year by the Iraqi Government to dismantle the Mahdi army in Basra and Baghdad have removed remaining threats to the stability of the Government. The Iraqi Government and military forces are increasingly self-reliance and the nation is stabilizing.

Before we declare victory and come straight home, Bing West has a warning:

Yet the progress in Iraq is most threatened by a political promise in the U.S. to remove all American combat brigades, against the advice of our military commanders. Iraqi volunteers working for a nonsectarian political party in Baghdad asked me, "Is America giving up its goals?" It's an unsettling question.

The problem is not American force levels in Iraq. It is divisiveness at home. While our military has adapted, our society has disconnected from its martial values. I was standing beside an Iraqi colonel one day in war-torn Fallujah when a tough Marine patrol walked by. "You Americans," he said, "are the strongest tribe."

But we cast aspersions on ourselves. The success of our military should not be begrudged to gain transitory political advantage.

As if to remind us to not get over-confident, the bombings are not over, even as the Iraqi Government asks for timetables for US force withdrawals.

PS. How long will the MSM keep quiet about our victory in Iraq? asks NewsBusters.

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