Friday, February 15, 2008

The Iraq War Troop Surge: One Year Later

Originally published Thursday, February 14, 2008 on ASSOCIATED CONTENT

"The troop surge" commenced Feb. 14, 2007, with the 82nd Airborne as the vanguard of an American troop buildup that would climb to 30,000 extra U.S. soldiers by the summer of 2007. U.S.-led forces have successfully tamped down violence, and the Pentagon has forged critical pacts with Sunni fighters against al-Qaeda in Iraq.

On January 23 2007, the president had this to say on the troop increase in Iraq, outlining the purpose in supporting the Iraqi government maintain control: "In order to make progress toward this goal, the Iraqi government must stop the sectarian violence in its capital. But the Iraqis are not yet ready to do this on their own. So we're deploying reinforcements of more than 20,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Iraq. The vast majority will go to Baghdad, where they will help Iraqi forces to clear and secure neighborhoods, and serve as advisers embedded in Iraqi Army units. With Iraqis in the lead, our forces will help secure the city by chasing down the terrorists, insurgents, and the roaming death squads. And in Anbar Province, where al Qaeda terrorists have gathered and local forces have begun showing a willingness to fight them, we're sending an additional 4,000 United States Marines, with orders to find the terrorists and clear them out."[1]

A diary and another document seized during U.S. raids in Iraq show some Al Qaeda leaders fear the terror group is crumbling, with many fighters defecting to American-backed neighborhood groups. The military revealed two documents discovered by American troops in November: a 39-page memo written by a mid- to high-level Al Qaeda official with knowledge of the group’s operations in Iraq’s western Anbar province, and a 16-page diary written by another group leader north of Baghdad.

Click here for the English translation of the diary. (PDF)

Click here for the original version of the diary. (PDF)

In the Anbar document, the author describes an Al Qaeda in crisis.” We lost cities and afterward, villages. We find ourselves in a wasteland desert.” Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a U.S. military spokesman quoted the document as saying. The memo, believed to have been written in summer 2007, cites militants’ increasing difficulty in moving around and transporting weapons and suicide belts because of better equipped Iraqi police and more watchful citizens, Smith said. [2]

The sharply lower figures for the second half of 2007 have reduced U.S. losses to what they were in late 2003 and early 2004. The Iraqi death toll is back down to where it was at the close of 2005. [3] The numbers make a strong case that the surge accomplished its main goal.

Steve Schippert, co-founder of the Center for Threat Awareness noted the following during a recent symposium with Front Page Magazine:

This (success of the surge) flies directly in the face of significant Washington elected officials' recent claims already this week that the "surge" is "a failure." If our military commanders are not to be trusted, and Iraqis are not to be trusted, perhaps the cries of al-Qaeda leadership in Iraq can be trusted that our change in strategy, tactics and manpower is anything but a failure. Al-Qaeda is not yet defeated, but its ability to operate, maintain havens acquired through brutal force, and sustain itself are all diminished to the point of critical mass.

It's like a brushfire. Killing the flames is critically important, but to walk away leaving embers smoldering is to invite re-ignition. And we - or more importantly, Iraqi civilians - truly need not endure the al-Qaeda inferno twice only to fight the flames again, do we?

Al-Qaeda has demonstrated that its embers are present, though they are forced to find new fuel in creative and sinister ways. The lack of capable and willing human resources is precisely what precipitated the murder of two mentally disabled girls stricken with Down Syndrome. An al-Qaeda terrorist working at a psychiatric hospital facilitated strapping bombs to their unwitting bodies and sending them into a marketplace they regularly frequented, killing scores when the girls were detonated.

The moral question that must be faced square on is one in which we ask ourselves: Is this what we are going to leave Iraq to?

Many Iraqis took to fighting al-Qaeda before our shift in strategy one year ago. But it did not become the decisive popular movement it is today until Iraqis felt secure enough that we at least were not going to leave them, their towns, their neighborhoods and their families exposed and unprotected against the barbarous. We are not everywhere in Iraq. We are, however, in more places than we have ever been simultaneously and we are in pursuit. [4]

Certainly, there is more critical work to be done. Along with recent evidence that Al-Maliki, Prime Minister of Iraq, has made strides to reach political reforms, it remains obvious that his government continues to struggle for stability.

Thanks to the vision and intelligence of men such as General Petraeus and the expertise, bravery, and commitment of our troops we remain Free here and Iraq is a helluva lot closer to stability.

God bless America and God bless our troops.

[2] Feb 10, 2008
[3] Baghdad -AP, Feb 12, 2008
[4] Feb 13, 2008

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