About that surge strategy
It's still working. There wasn't much coverage of General Petraeus when he appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee last Thursday. Even C-SPAN didn't show it live. Petraeus reported that violence is at a 4-year low and that he will likely reduce troop levels this September after the 45-day pause. His comments were more upbeat than six weeks ago, when the Basra offensive was in full flux, but he is still cautionary about the political situation. Here is what he said about al-Sadr and Basra.
There's more on the success of the Basra offensive.
Even the New York Times is acknowledging the turnaround in Basra, but the writer seems befuddled about how it happened. Here's my answer: Clear. Hold. Build. The Brits played the caretaker role in southern Iraq, but the reality is that they took care of nothing except for avoiding getting shot at. The Basra offensive improved al Maliki's political standing, which has enabled him to take on al Sadr's home base in Sadr City and the last urban al Qaeda stronghold in Mosul.
A hat tip to Amy Proctor for the video. Going by Roggio , Sadr City is still in the clearing and holding phase, but they should start building soon. Muqtada al Sadr gets quite a bit of support from Sadr City residents because his group provides services and security. With the Iraqi Army and related groups doing the same, al Sadr's usefulness and relevance are reduced. Here's how Dr. iRack describes the Mosul operation:
Meanwhile, the Iraqi Army has continued its clearing operations in Mosul, arresting more than 1,000 suspected supporters of AQI, but apparently hasn't had to fight much. According to Interior Ministry spokesman Major-General Abdul-Karim Khalaf , Iraqi-led operations in Mosul, capital of Nineveh province, had destroyed "most of the insurgents' network." He continued: "We have arrested most of the wanted men and the operations are continuing. The are no longer big challenges in Mosul. There will always be sleeper cells, but that is not important because we will be able to deal with those cells." Clear? Check. Now the Iraqi government intends to recruit 7,000 Mosul residents into the security forces to help police the city. Hold? Check. And Maliki has promised $100 million to provide services and construction projects . Build? Check.
On the al Qaeda front, U.S. Ambassador Crocker said yesterday that the terrorist group has "never been closer to defeat than they are now." A little over a year ago, this is what a certain defeatist Democratic Senator from Nevada said.
The "extreme violence yesterday" that gloomy Reid was talking about was a series of four suicide bombings that killed 183 . Thirteen months ago, Harry Reid was ready and willing to surrender because of al Qaeda's evil acts. Now, al Qaeda is the one approaching defeat. Reid also said this : "As long as we follow the President's path in Iraq, the war is lost. But there is still a chance to change course and we must change course." Bush had changed course two months prior to Reid's statements, but Reid's version of changing course was (and perhaps still is) unilateral cut-and-run.
There's even more building taking place in southern Iraq, and Iraqi Airways just signed a multi-billion dollar order with Boeing for a fleet of new passenger jets. Next week, the Iranian foreign minister and a Syrian envoy will attend UN meetings in Sweden for the Iraq Compact Annual Review, which will make this a forum where U.S. officials can talk to a couple of adversarial nations. More on the International Compact with Iraq here .
None of the above means that all of al Qaeda or Special Groups or "rogue" JAM militias are defeated. I'm sure quite a few have melted away, some leaving or quitting, but others waiting to fight another day. Also, the truce between al Sadr and the Iraqi government is fragile and tenuous. But al Sadr is in a weak position, which was exposed as early as last August when he stood down his militias after the mess in Karbala. Also, none of this means that I believed we've turned the corner or that we're winning in Iraq. There's plenty left to accomplish. Although political strides have been made, more benchmarks need to be reached and more security needs to take hold and more building needs to take place.