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Posted by on Mar 27, 2007 in At TMV | 19 comments

Is the Surge Working?

It just might:

The US military has captured the leaders of a car-bombing ring blamed for killing hundreds of Iraqis.

The news came as the departing US ambassador said Americans are in ongoing talks with insurgent representatives to try to persuade them to turn against al-Qaeda.

Khalilzad said the talks have shifted from “unreasonable demands� by the groups for a US withdrawal to forming an alliance against al-Qaeda. He said the effort has gained support among tribal leaders and even some insurgents.

“Iraqis are uniting against al-Qaeda,� he said.

The always positive Jules Crittenden concludes that the coalition forces “are winning”.

As I wrote: “positive”. The surge is working in some regards, I think it is safe to say that, but does this mean that the coalition forces “are winning”? One battle won does not mean that one is winning the war. There will be many battles, problems in Iraq are complicated, so, one has to be extremely careful before proclaiming that “we’re winning.”

Of course I understand Jules and I hope that the surge will work, but… I have to say that I remain very critical of the surge and fear that, once it has ended, insurgents / terrorists will return to business as usual.

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  • kritter

    I’m no military expert, but have read some of the prevailing opinions of retired military so here goes: The surge does have the correct strategy, which if we had applied in 2003, and simultaneously used the Powell Doctrine, would have had a decent chance of success.

    As it stands now, we can only provide a temporary return of basic security to parts of Baghdad, in order to give Maliki’s regime a chance for national reunification

  • kritter

    OOPs- I pressed the post comment button in the middle of my comment.

    Anyway…….. The problems with the surge are:

    We cannot maintain the level needed to secure the peace for very long as our military is limited- al queda knows this and can just wait us out.

    The political benchmarks of reconciliation, amnesty and oil revenue sharing have not been reached, which will lead the Sunnis to still mistrust this gov’t.

    Violence is diminishing in Baghdad and Anbar province, but spreading in other parts of the country.

    Economic conditions and basic living conditions are still dire, which feeds into the violence.

    The American public has been patient for four years of an expensive war with no progress. They will not be patient enough to stick it out for an unknown number of years to give Petraeus a fair shot.

    Blame Rumsfeld for stubbornly sticking with a terribly naive plan and trying to fight this on the cheap. Also blame Bush for sticking with Rumsfeld way too long out of misplaced loyalty or egotistic motives. The mistakes that were made early on in the war could have been caught and corrected, if those involved were interested in really winning, and not just snowing the American public.

  • C Stanley

    I think that assessment is very likely accurate, Kim. So given the lack of other alternatives, isn’t the potential result in your second paragraph something we should strive for as the least bad alternative now? We’ve had to move the goalposts, to be sure, but I don’t see the rationale for not attempting to reach the revised goals since we know the alternative would be even worse.

  • C Stanley

    Oops on my part too: I posted my response to your first comment before your second one appeared, Kim.

  • domajot

    These minute-by-minute bad/good news assessments are nerve wracking.

    I also heard that as the number of bombings in Baghdad decrease, they increase in smaller towns outside of Baghdad, where 2 mosques were attacked in a single day.

    In the back of all this daily assessment lies the bigger question of what al Sadr will do when the surge is over.

    For me, the important news is what the Iraqi government is doing, and about that we hear little. At least the news about negotiations is good news.

  • kritter

    National reconciliation with amnesty has not taken place. The oil revenue law has not made it through Parliament. I believe Maliki has taken the initial steps needed, but is not in control of much of the follow-through. It is encouraging to hear that insurgents may focus on fighting al queda, but as I wrote earlier it may be too little too late.

  • Rudi

    The surge will work when the Sunnis are welcomed into the Shia government and militants other than Sadr are purged. Sciri and Dawa are just as bad as Sadr, but they have looked into W’s eyes and we now embrace them like Putin. Which side is Orange and which is Green….

  • DaveA

    1) Well the good news is bodies found in Baghdad dropped from 30-40/day to the teens… But, then has climbed back into the 20s over the last two weeks. If we can at least hold that, then we will have some real gains here. If not, then its just one more push that fizzles.

    2) Al-Qaeda is a not the starter that one may think it is. A very small percentage of violence is actuallly from them per se, although it tends to be the spectacular type. We have had this very conversation with Sunni’s before and it got nowhere, hopefully this time will be different, but…

    3) The underlying issues are simply not addressed. Example? From a Sunni perspective, the oil law sucks, even if its passed (they oppose it currently). All it says is that the revenue will be shared, but not how. Now the part about what companies’ whom invest get is all spelled out. Go figure eh?

    In general we are treading water for now. But, that is indeed way better than sinking like a stone as we had been doing.

    The problem comes with dealing with the spread of violence outside of Anbar/Baghdad area. And, of course, on getting actual progress on reconcilliation between the various power blocks to progress.

  • Entropy

    I find it funny how people are already extrapolating the success or failure of the surge when it’s barely even begun. The answer is no one knows. Even Gen. Petraeaus said we won’t even have a preliminary how things are going until late summer.

  • Elrod

    Tal Afar blew up today with a twin truck bombing that killed at least 48 people. Remember, Tal Afar was once the site held up as an example of an earlier surge that worked. The problem is the same as always: not nearly enough troops to keep the peace. Oh, and the Shi’ite have already rejected the new de-de-Baathification plan.

    Negotiations between non-AQI militants and the government (US or Iraqi) have been going on for about two years. The problem, again, is that they never amount to anything sustainable. Any sheikh who makes peace with the government gets blown up. And there are a lot of middling groups that aren’t technically AQI but are highly militant and Islamist, and they receive tons and tons of money from Gulf billionaires. They have no problem paying people to carry out attacks against both government forces and potential collaborators. The government just can’t sustain itself in the Sunni areas to establish legitimacy. AQI is a nuisance to average Sunnis, but the Shi’ites are the longterm enemy. Until that changes, Sunnis won’t turn en masse against AQI.

  • Mark

    Yes, let’s keep at keeping at it no matter what. Move the goalposts if we need. Just stay on… we can win this in the end because we can outlast them… and to hell with the voice of the people.

  • sgsmu

    Well is the surge working? We know of at least 100 Iraqi’s who were killed today (or I should say the number of deaths publicly known). The individual’s who claim that the surge is working are just trying to spin the reality of it once again. These people obviously want more Americans and Iraqi’s to die each and everyday, or else they would want them out by the middle of next year like the rest of the American public. I mean seriously…We took out Saddam..We installed a non dictatorial government…We set up a constitution…We poured in hundreds of billions of dollars…We have done all we can do in that country, and now its time to put an end to this horrendous war..

  • Blame Rumsfeld for stubbornly sticking with a terribly naive plan and trying to fight this on the cheap. Also blame Bush for sticking with Rumsfeld way too long out of misplaced loyalty or egotistic motives.

    Actually, just cut out the middleman. Blame Bush. It was Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq. It’s been his appointees who’ve run it. It was his administration that put political ideology over competence at every level of the reconstruction effort. It was Bush who waited month’s after Rumsfeld’s resignation to even put forward the surge plan. Bush signed off on all of it. Rumsfeld is just one of scores of officials who’ve bungled this effort.

  • Great. The tribal leaders are fighting Al Quada. So who is going to deal with the radical Shiite theocrats who seem pull the strings in the Iraqi government and are running most of the schools (to say nothing of the death squads)…?

  • C Stanley

    The alternative to saying to hell with the American voters is to say to hell with the Iraqi people. That’s what I can’t abide.

  • kritter

    Yes, I blame Bush. But, sh’s managerial style is to delgate broad power to someone, then trust them completely to accomplish their task. He was far too loyal
    to Rumsfeld and should have made a decision to get rid of him earlier. Rumsfeld and Franks, however developed a disasterous war plan and refused to even think about a post-war plan. This short-sightedness led to the rise of a powerful insurgency (formed due to Paul Bremer’s dismissal of Saddam’s army and civil service) which Rumsfeld arrogantly refused to recognize for many months. By the time he did, it was too late.

    I just reread my original post, and see that I blamed both of them there too. I did not and do not support the war, but to start it and then bungle it so casually and arrogantly is unforgiveable. To keep a failed policy and policymaker in place because of loyalty is ludicrous when so much is at stake. It makes me wonder if Rumsfeld would still be Sec Def to this day if the Republicans had held onto Congress.

  • glasnost

    In general we are treading water for now. But, that is indeed way better than sinking like a stone as we had been doing.

    I agree with the quoted statement, but I am not optimistic for the future. It’s great that the surge bought some residents of Baghdad a few weeks to have half of a state of calm, by which I mean suffering only Sunni attacks instead of both Sunni and Shiite attacks. But that’s not a military victory so much as a political agreement. And the problem of the Sunni insurgency – which is still doing damage and violence at a mostly steady, constant rate as far as I can tell – hasn’t been solved today and won’t be solved tomorrow.

    Khalilzad said the talks have shifted from “unreasonable demands� by the groups for a US withdrawal to forming an alliance against al-Qaeda.

    I wish I could believe this, but I don’t.

  • glasnost

    The problem with reporting on the surge is that the people reporting on it are mostly just projecting their own biases. Some sites report nothing but good news and some report nothing but bad news, but few people systematically report everything. I read about real attacks from Arabic sources from Juan Cole’s site that I would have no idea ever happened if I read ordinary blogs.

  • Well, we have a good general now and some hopeful help from Sunni sheiks angry at insurgents, etc. – however, the current attacks by *police* in Tal Afar etc., are showing that the government is not up to the task, they are Shia partisans, etc.
    What in the world can we do in the face of that?

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