Since today marks the end of the fourth year since Operation Iraqi Freedom kicked off, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the current state of battle.
Two thorough assessments of the current struggle come from DT friend and military historian Kim Kagan in her latest update on Gen. Petraeus counterinsurgency strategy, and from MilBlogger Bill Roggios Fourth-Rail site in his daily update (from March 19).
Muqtada al-Sadr's decision not to fight at the beginning of the Baghdad Security Plan, and his flight from Iraq to Iran, minimized Jaysh al-Mahdi resistance in January, February, and early March. U.S. and Iraqi forces have not, however, eliminated enemy forces and organized resistance, even in those areas. Rogue elements of the Jaysh al-Mahdi continue to operate in Baghdad
A big advantage of a "rolling surge" is that the population and the enemy sense the continuous pressure of ever-increasing forces. Iraqis have not seen such a prolonged and continuous planned increase of U.S. forces before--previous increases have been smaller and/or focused on specific events such as elections, after which it was expected that the additional troops would be withdrawn. A disadvantage of a "rolling surge" is that the enemy continues to function in some areas of Baghdad or simply leaves the city to await the expected departure of the additional troops. The net result of the continued, increasing presence of U.S. forces appears to be having an important psychological, as well as practical, effect on the enemy and the people of Iraq
While, or perhaps because, the Jaysh al-Mahdi has avoided fighting with U.S. and Iraqi troops, and as executions have fallen, al Qaeda has increased the number and variety of spectacular attacks in Baghdad. The aim of such attacks seems consistent: namely, to spark sectarian violence. It seems likely that al Qaeda leaders wish to incite the Shiite population of Baghdad to take up arms and continue fighting, in order to discredit the government of Iraq and the United States. So far, the Shiite population has not reacted to these attacks as dramatically as it did on previous occasions. It is likely that another goal of these al Qaeda attacks is to break the will of the American people to continue the fight, possibly even to turn off the "surge" before it takes full effect
Sectarian murders, the fuel for the potential Sunni - Shia civil war, have been dramatically reduced. Before the beginning of the operation, Scores of bodies were found executed daily, now the number is in the single digits. Massive car bomb attacks, which in the past have killed dozens and wounded hundreds, have been reduced. While the number of car bombings have increased, their effectiveness has decreased. Over the past week only one significant suicide car bomb attack occurred inside Baghdad
The U.S. has been in serious negotiations with elements of Sadr's Mahdi Army, which has been behind much of sectarian murders in Baghdad and beyond. With Sadr and his senior lieutenants either in Iran or Syria, or going to ground outside of Baghdad, Sadr has lost significant command and control of his militia. The negotiations seriously threaten Sadr's power base in Baghdad and the south
And Marines in charge of security in the western al Anbar province are beginning to see some progress in their effort to drive a wedge between al Qaeda terrorist groups and local tribal officials.
Despite positive signs, however, the American public has clearly grown tired of the Iraq war, with more than 60 percent of Americans telling pollsters they disapprove of Bushs handling of the conflict there. Four years and more than 3,000 deaths - and tens of thousands more wounded - is too high a price to pay for most Americans. And there are signs the Iraqi people are losing confidence as well.
Though President Bush is yet again pleading for patience which anyone who knows anything about counterinsurgency strategy understands is the key to success the moves by a Democrat-led Congress to end the war before the 2008 election shows time is running out.-- Christian