"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

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The Endgame in Iraq

From Jack Keane, Frederick W. Kagan & Kimberly Kagan writing for The Weekly Standard.

On September 16, General Raymond Odierno will succeed General David Petraeus as commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. The surge strategy Petraeus and Odierno developed and executed in 2007 achieved its objectives: reducing violence in Iraq enough to allow political processes to restart, economic development to move forward, and reconciliation to begin. Violence has remained at historic lows even after the withdrawal of all surge forces and the handover of many areas to Iraqi control. Accordingly, President Bush has approved the withdrawal of 8,000 additional troops by February 2009.

With Barack Obama's recent declaration that the surge in Iraq has succeeded, it should now be possible to move beyond that debate and squarely address the current situation in Iraq and the future. Reductions in violence permitting political change were the goal of the surge, but they are not the sole measure of success in Iraq.

The United States seeks a free, stable, independent Iraq, with a legitimately elected representative government that can govern and defend its territory, is at peace with its neighbors, and is an ally of the United States in the war on terror. The Iraqi leadership has made important strides toward developing a new and inclusive political system that addresses the concerns of all Iraq's ethnic and sectarian groups. But it has also taken steps in the wrong direction.

These authors of the surge of American forces in 2007 provide an interesting and insightful analysis of not only military, but political considerations in Iraq. They discuss how and when we should drawdown force, long-term security agreements, and the way ahead to ensure Iraq remains a stable democracy and ally to the United States.

For a full read, click here.

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The Surge in Iraq: One Year Later

From Lt. Gen. Raymond T Odierno writing for The Heritage Foundation.

Stories in the press described the situation in Iraq as spiraling out of control. One Los Angeles Times arti­cle discussed the rising level of sectarian violence in Baghdad and how this violence seemed to feed on itself. Placing his account in context, the writer men­tioned that al-Qaeda had detonated a bomb in the Shia neighborhood of Sadr City the previous week, killing over 200 people. This was the latest in a steady run of high-profile attacks since the Golden Mosque bomb­ing of February 2006 in Samarra. And for at least one Shiite living in Baghdad, it was the last straw.

LTG Odierno descibes the political situation in Iraq.

In late 2006, the progress we can observe now was unthinkable. In short, we could hardly expect successful transition or meaningful reconciliation without basic security. Establishing security for the population was a prerequisite for further progress. It was essential. And to make a decisive impact, we needed more combat power and a change in approach.

What helped turn Iraq around?

However, it is important that I mention one other factor that informed our planning and deci­sion-making process. On December 19, 2006, we captured some mid-level al-Qaeda leaders just north of Baghdad. Upon them was a map that clearly depicted al-Qaeda's strategy for the total and unyielding dominance of Baghdad, betting that control of Iraq's capital and its millions of cit­izens would give them free rein to export their twisted ideology and terror.

This map can be found at the Institute for the Study of War. This map was significant in that it described how Al Qaeda in Iraq used the belts around Baghdad to execute terrorists acts in Baghdad. It also showed the disposition of Al Qaeda in Iraq. The map confirmed the American military what had just been written in its new Counterinsurgency doctrine, namely, the decisive point in Iraq was Baghdad and overarching goal of coalition forces should be to protect and secure the population.

It meant changing our mindset as we secured the people where they worked and slept and where their children played. It meant developing new tac­tics, techniques, and procedures in order to imple­ment this concept. We began to establish Joint Security Stations and Combat Outposts throughout Baghdad. We erected protective barriers and estab­lished checkpoints to create "safe neighborhoods" and "safe markets," improving security for Iraqis as they went about their daily lives.

To secure the population, American forces established Joint Security Stations in and around the people to ensure their security and protection. They also increased the operational capacity of Iraqi Security Forces to be able to hold ground, freeing up American forces to continue to attack and keep pressure on Al Qaeda in Iraq (Sunni terrorists) and Special Groups (Shiite terrorists).

This multipronged approach resulted in enhanced economic activitiy as the population now begin to go back to markets. This translated into Iraqis giving American forces more tips to sustain their new security and economic actitivity. Partnering up with Iraqi Forces put them in harms way, made them more proficient, and allowed more pairing up with US forces. In the long run, many Iraqi Army units begin to take the lead in fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq and Special Groups.

The complete turn around in Al Anbar provided US forces a model by which to convert insurgents to work for vice against the Iraqi Government and American military. In turn, people were now protected by Sons of Iraq, locals paired with local police, supplemented by Iraqi Security Forces. Al Qaeda in Iraq could now not move back into regions cleared by American forces. They began to flee causing American forces to be able to find them quicker. The situation spiraled out of control for Al Qaeda in Iraq.

In turn, the populous now experienced substantial economic growth and development and begin to turn wholesale against extremists, whether Sunni or Shia. The surge produced hope for the Iraqi people. As hope increases so does anti-extremism. This hope continues to grow and is now present all over Iraq and is beginning to flow out of Iraq to other neighboring countries.

Precisely right when many were proposing we accept defeat in Iraq, we now see almost a complete rout of Al Qaeda in Iraq and to a certain extent a rout of Special Groups. Many times in war, hope is all that is needed to turn the tables on the enemy. We gave not only Iraqis hope but many other people hope in the Middle East. This hope would not have been there if we had pulled out forces in 2007. Instead we surged forces, routed Al Qaeda in Iraq, and gave people of the region hope for freedom and democracy in their future.

For a full read, click here.

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Pressure on Sadr and the Iranian-backed Special Groups continues

From Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal.

As previously reported at The Long War Journal, US and Iraqi forces have stepped up operations against the Iranian-backed and Mahdi Army-linked Special Groups terror cells. The increase in activity comes as Muqtada al Sadr is deliberating the reinstatement or cancellation of the self-imposed cease-fire.

Mr. Roggio has an excellent analysis of current Iraqi and US forces actions on Mahdi Army linked Special Groups.

Several of the press releases ended with the standard warning to Sadr and his Mahdi Army. "We will continue to disrupt the networks of those who choose not to obey al-Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr’s ceasefire pledge. ... The people of Iraq have made it clear that they will not tolerate the criminal activities of these splinter groups." The US military is warning Sadr that ending the cease-fire will result in operations designed to dismantle the Mahdi Army. (emphasis added)

Mr. Roggio points out Sadr is in a Catch-22.

Sadr's decision to either continue or end the cease-fire has serious implications for his political movement. Ending the ceasefire puts him in the crosshairs of the US and Iraqi military, and expose the depth or shallowness of his support in the Shia community.... But extending the ceasefire may further erode Sadr's power within his political movement and the Mahdi Army.

In turn, the Iraqi and US government is not only using threat of military action and information operations against Sadr, but also beginning legal action.

The Iraqi government is also applying legal pressure on Sadr. The government will begin the trial of former Deputy Health Minister Hakim al Zamili and Brigadier General Hameed al Shimmari, who served as the chief of the ministry's security forces.

For a full read, click here.

One fact not mentioned by Mr. Roggio, but is worth noting is he cites ten recent actions against the Madhi Army (including the trial). Six of these ten incidents involved Iraqis policing their own. In only four of the incidents were US forces involved. The majority involved Iraqi government forces against Mahdi Army forces. As noted before, Iraqi forces and the government have come a long way. The Iraqi government is not ineffectual. Nor are the Iraqi Security Forces. The Surge has allowed both the government and Iraqi forces the room to grow, which was its intent.

In turn, Maliki joined forces with Sunni and Kurdish forces on 26 December 2007 when these parties signed the "memorandum of understanding". This signing allowed Maliki to reduce the influence of Sadr and paved way for national reconciliation with Ba'athist that shortly followed, recent budget resolutions, provincial elections slated for October 2008.

The Iraqi Government is coming into its own. It is becoming a vibrant democracy.

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Why the Surge Worked

From Time.

Like many retail districts in downtown Baghdad, al-Kindy Street has lately had little to offer shoppers but a fine assortment of fear, blood and death. Shootings and regular bombings have shuttered many of al-Kindy's stores, where some of Baghdad's wealthiest residents once bought everything from eggplants to area rugs. At this time last year, al-Kindy was deteriorating into just another bombed-out corner of a city spiraling out of control.

Then came the surge—President George W. Bush's controversial deployment, beginning last January, of an additional 30,000 U.S. troops, that seemed as tactically bold as it was politically unpopular. With his approval ratings ebbing and a bipartisan group of wise elders urging him to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, Bush went in the other direction. Overcoming the opposition of the Joint Chiefs, Bush sent five additional combat brigades to secure the capital, hunt down al-Qaeda in Iraq in the countryside and, at least in theory, stop the violence long enough for the country's Sunnis and Shi'ites to find common ground on power-sharing.

For a full read, click here.

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The Surge - Working or Not?

Frederick W. Kagan, Jack Keane and Michael O'Hanlon argue The Surge is Making Iraq Safe for Politics.

This political progress resulted from a year's worth of substantial effort to reduce violence in Iraq. Proponents of the surge always said that getting violence under control was an essential prerequisite to reconciliation, not the other way around. The full surge has been in place and operating for just over six months, and already violence has fallen dramatically across the country. The achievement in such a short time of significant legislation that requires all sides to accept risk and compromise with people they had been fighting only a few months ago is remarkable. It would have been unattainable without the change in strategy and addition of American forces that helped bring the violence down.

Andrew J. Bacevich, however, believes The Surge is a Surge to Nowhere.

According to the war's most fervent proponents, Bush's critics have become so "invested in defeat" that they cannot see the progress being made on the ground. Yet something similar might be said of those who remain so passionately invested in a futile war's perpetuation. They are unable to see that, surge or no surge, the Iraq war remains an egregious strategic blunder that persistence will only compound.

Both views are well worth the read.

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The Surge Effect - The gamble is paying off for Bush and McCain.

From Fred Barnes ath The Weekly Standard.

The match is almost perfect. As the surge in Iraq has succeeded, the presidential campaign of John McCain has risen from the ashes. This is no coincidence, and the message is simple and unmistakable. The surge is now a powerful force in American politics. In the jargon of the 2008 presidential race, it's a game-changer.

The surge effect is the result of gains in Iraq well beyond the most optimistic dreams of the surge's advocates. The American military, led by General David Petraeus, has under-promised and over-delivered. Violence has dropped precipitously. So have attacks on Americans and combat deaths. Baghdad has been virtually secured, al Qaeda crushed, and sectarian bloodshed significantly reduced. Provinces once controlled by insurgents are scheduled to be turned over to well-trained Iraqi forces, starting with Anbar in the spring. The war, in short, is being won.

Mr. Barnes explains why it is good for John McCain.

This level of denial about the surge among Democrats is politically dangerous. Democratic voters may be immune to the surge effect, but independents are not. If the surge continues to bring stability to Iraq, independents--who produced the Democratic triumph in the 2006 election--almost certainly will begin to shift their support. They have no partisan commitment to defeat in Iraq. Like most Americans, they prefer victory.

For a full read, click here.

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