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Posted by on Nov 24, 2006 in At TMV | 22 comments

Iraq: Good News From Anbar, But Can It Last?

Women line up to vote in Anbar Province
While I have long admired Bill Roggio for being one of the very few people reporting on Iraq and Afghanistan to have the cojones to go there and keep going back, he used to piss me off because he took the long view that the U.S. mission in both countries would prevail when I saw evidence to the contrary.

Well, Roggio is bowed but not broken, to turn around the familiar phrase. While many war pundits are blogging from a Starbucks (and I from a kitchen table with a commanding view of a bird feeder), Bill is currently embedded with U.S. Marines in vast Anbar Province in the heart of the fearsome Sunni Triangle.

Roggio acknowledges that things are not going swimmingly overall (witness the horrible carnage this week alone), but says that

“Lost in the current debate over Iraq — civil war or sectarian violence, success or failure, increasing troops or strategic redeployment, victory or defeat — is the sea-change occurring in western Iraq. The U.S. military has coaxed a large majority of the Sunnis of Anbar province, perhaps one of the most sympathetic groups to Al Qaeda in the Middle East, to turn on Al Qaeda. The choice wasn’t difficult after the tribes saw what Al Qaeda had to offer.”

* * * * *
As a newbie co-blogger at The Moderate Voice (a million thank yous, Joe), I suppose I should be clear about where I stand on all of this:

I reluctantly supported the war in the early days until I realized that The Decider and his neocon cabal were lying to me.

As a veteran of another failed war, I took deep offense when Dick Cheney, the Decider’s puppet master, branded me a traitor because I had come to understand that Iraq was the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I have followed the war very closely, as longtime readers of my home blog, Kiko’s House, well know. In fact, I have obsessed on it a bit.

I know the names of the spouses, children and parents of some of my fellow Iraqi bloggers, and feel the losses each and every one of these families have suffered. There is a big map of Baghdad over my desk with an overlay showing the neighborhoods where the massive and massively unsuccessful security sweeps were conducted.

I never dreamed that I would know Baghdad’s neighborhoods almost as well as, say, New Orleans’.

I believe that the U.S. lost its tenuous grip on Iraq for good in November 2004 when Marines were routed by insurgents in the first Battle of Falluja, that Iraq has been in civil war since February when the Golden Mosque in Samarra was bombed, and that the civil war is devolving into a national meltdown.

I believe that the U.S. can’t get out of Iraq soon enough and the longer it stays the worse things will get.

I believe that George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld are war criminals.

I believe that Congress, notably the Democrats, abrogated their responsibility to be a constitutionally mandated counter balance to The Decider’s rogue administration.

I believe that beyond the many thousands of deaths of U.S. troops and Iraqis, the two biggest casualties are the war in Afghanistan (which was the right war in the right place at the right time) and the U.S.’s standing in the world.

Finally, I believe that we ain’t seen nothing yet.

* * * * *
Having said all of that (and I promise to be more short-winded in the future), Bill Roggio’s news out of Anbar is very good.

This is because long after the last Shiite has blown up the last Sunni, Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups will still be doing their thing. You know, the insurgents who were absent from Iraq until Rumsfeld’s horribly botched occupation opened the door to droves of them.

The bad thing is that successes like the one Roggio describes, and there have been some, have a way of becoming defeats because of that momentum thingie:

The focus of U.S. commanders shifts, too often because of political dictates back at the White House and Pentagon, or there simply are not enough troops and other resources.

Roggio did not address this issue — what troops must be able to do to keep the momentum going in Anbar and allow it to spread elsewhere — in his comprehensive report at The Fourth Rail, so I asked him to do so.

Bill got right back to me and this is what he said:

“Increase the number of troops to clean Al Qaeda out of Ramadi and secure Baghdad, take on [anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada] Al-Sadr, increase the number of the advisers and put embedded military/police transition teams at the platoon level for every unit, and secure the borders, particularly with Iran.”

He goes in depth on the question in a recent podcast with Ward Carroll, the editor of Military.com.

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