There’s plenty of news on Iraq today. First, major attacks have declined in Iraq, apparently as a consequence of the surge:
The number of truck bombs and other large al-Qaeda-style attacks in Iraq have declined nearly 50% since the United States started increasing troop levels in Iraq about six months ago, according to the U.S. military command in Iraq.
The high-profile attacks — generally large bombs hitting markets, mosques or other “soft” targets that produce mass casualties — have dropped to about 70 in July from a high during the past year of about 130 in March, according to the Multi-National Force — Iraq.
Let me state the reverse of that coin: increased troop levels and a more involved approach to operations means that we’re taking more casualties. The Iraqi government has taken the opportunity of the space being given to them by the increased security to go on vacation.
The New York Times has arrived at the stunning conclusion that reducing our troop levels in Iraq might be worse than leaving them there:
As Americans argue about how to bring the troops home from Iraq, British forces are already partway out the door. Four years ago, there were some 30,000 British ground troops in southern Iraq. By the end of this summer, there will be 5,000. None will be based in urban areas. Those who remain will instead be quartered at an airbase outside Basra. Rather than trying to calm Iraq’s civil war, their main mission will be training Iraqis to take over security responsibilities, while doing limited counterinsurgency operations.
That closely follows the script some Americans now advocate for American forces in Iraq: reduce the numbers — and urban exposure — but still maintain a significant presence for the next several years. It’s a tempting formula, reaping domestic political credit for withdrawal without acknowledging that the mission has failed.
If anyone outside the White House truly believes this can work — that the United States can simply stay in Iraq in reduced numbers, while ignoring the civil war and expecting Iraqi forces to impose order— the British experience demonstrates otherwise. There simply aren’t reliable, effective and impartial Iraqi forces ready to keep the cities safe, nor are they likely to exist any time soon. And insurgents are not going to stop attacking Americans just because the Americans announce that they’re out of the fight.
Perhaps I missed it but I haven’t heard any White House representatives urging that course of action although I’ve heard plenty in the Congress making the argument not to mention the first-tier Democratic presidential aspirants.
Don’t miss this interview by Charlie Rose with Col. Gary Anderson on wargaming withdrawal from Iraq:
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Charlie Rose Interviews Col. Gary Anderson
Hat tip: SWJ Blog.
The quick summary is that following a U. S. withdrawal from Iraq the Shi’ites will move to ethnically cleanse Sunni Arabs from everywhere in Iraq other than Anbar province, then they’ll probably start fighting amongst themselves. Iran will, no doubt, involve itself in the fracas. The Sunnis in Anbar will probably get assistance from the Saudis in rooting out al-Qaeda there. The Kurds will hope like hell that enough of an Iraq remains intact to discourage the Turks from crushing them. Cheery.
As I see it when taken together these news stories mean something like this. We can continue to make progress in stabilizing Iraq as long as we’re willing to take casualties in doing so. The Iraq government isn’t helping a great deal and the Iraqi police and military are coming along very slowly. Withdrawing slowly is an awful solution. And withdrawing completely is even worse—it creates a Lebanon-like situation. If there were better choices, I believe we’d already have taken one of them.
I believe I’ve identified one of the participants in the wargame exercise described above.