Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sloggin' It Out In Iraq Continued

Fire of Liberty

In a follow-up to my earlier post Sloggin' It Out In Iraq, I thought I'd share with you this piece from USA Today which features an interview with General Patreaus on his current offensive plan in Iraq. Now while the article notes that the Patreaus led American and Iraqi allies face some bloody and perilous days ahead in achieving their counterinsurgency goals, which include increased U.S. casualties, problems with the police, and political, it also points out that the commanders on the ground are seeing signs that the offensive is off to a good point. Here's a look:

•Iraq's army. The Iraqi army currently has 152,500 trained and equipped soldiers, nearly 20,000 more troops than were on the rosters in January, according to the U.S. State Department. Another 20,000 soldiers will be added to the ranks this year, the U.S. military says.

The army now has its own Iraqi-run basic training and leadership schools. "The Iraqi army has, in general, done quite well in the face of some really serious challenges," Petraeus says. "In certain areas, it really is very heartening to see what it has done."

Anbar province. This area in the heart of the Sunni Triangle has been held up by the U.S. military as a model for Iraq. "The progress in Anbar has actually been breathtaking," Petraeus says.

Commanders credit much of the success to the U.S. military's decision to arm, train and organize Sunni provincial militias that have turned against al-Qaeda militants operating in the area.

"If you've got folks who say, 'Hey, this is my hometown and I'm tired of the violence, and if you simply train and equip me, I'll protect my hometown.' We ought to jump on that like a duck on a June bug," says Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division.

Commanders elsewhere in Iraq are studying lessons that can be learned from the province, although Petraeus said that each area of Iraq has "unique circumstances." Anbar is mostly Sunni and does not have the volatile sectarian mix that stokes violence in other parts of the country.

Sectarian violence. The number of unidentified bodies found in Baghdad — an indicator of sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims — dropped from a high of 1,782 in October to 411 in April, according to an Interior Ministry official who declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

The body count spiked to 726 in May. So far this month, the numbers are again on a "downward trend," Petraeus says. Although the bombing Wednesday of a major Shiite shrine in Samarra raises the risk of a new outbreak of sectarian violence, he says.

Though this is a mere snapshot of the situation in Baghdad and surrounding ares and doesn't take in to account all of the matrices that General Patraeus and his staff in Iraq look at everyday but it does give you a sense that maybe things are better than others have you believe. To me, it looks like the politicians squawking in D.C. are more concerned about scoring political points to win more seats in Congress or the White House in 2008 that they won't give our commanders on the ground the benefit of the doubt in our fight in Iraq. I'm sensing that we're going to have a long summer ahead of us.

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