The Baghdad Security Plan Continues
Rear Admiral Mark Fox, Chief, MNFI Comms Division gave a number of bloggers an update on how the Baghdad security effort is proceeding at a telephone roundtable. He emphasized that even though all additional US forces are not yet in place, the Coalition now has the increasing capability to clear and hold spaces in Baghdad. This is probably due to two things: additional forces both American and Iraqi and a new deployment where Coalition forces remain in the neighborhoods in together with Iraqi forces. Previously the enemy simply flowed right back in after US forces left. Today no vacuum is left.
There was some discussion of the recent bombing attacks on Tal Afar, even though it was outside of Baghdad. The attack was apparently a double-bomb VBIED against civilian targets using trucks with more than 7,000 pounds of explosive on them each. The first tragically got through, but the second bomb was apparently intercepted before it could take out the first responders and that was a victory in itself. What's remembered in the news, however, was the aftermath. Some Shi'ite cops went amok after the first truck bomb went off. They've have apparently been detained and are under investigation and a number of Iraqi politicians have gone to Tal Afar to cool things down.
What was of most interest to me were indications of intra-sectarian fighting: extremist elements in the Sunni and Shi'ite camps were striking against moderates in their own party. Al Qaeda in Iraq, for example, has been attacking Sunni neighborhoods and politicians. We've already talked about the attack on Sunni deputy PM al-Zobai here.
My own personal impression from the briefing is that many things are actually going right. But considering the nature of the Middle East and the fact that the enemy will adapt, the road ahead will be long and hard. Nevertheless, there is a feeling among some of confidence and probably no alternative but to persist in some form or the other, simply because the threats that grow out of the region really can't be avoided. Just recently the British decided to pull some units out of Southern Iraq, but the recent abduction of sailors shows just how easily a crisis can pull units back in again. Like the Baghdad neighborhoods, Western strategy needs to find some way to clear and hold against the destabilizing forces in the area to avoid them flowing right back in. Some form of political stability has to be built, however painstakingly, other wise the West may wind up chronically fighting smaller and larger versions of Desert Storm into the distant future.
Regarding the present, one blogger raised the question of whether General Petreus had already run out of time to win his campaign, given efforts by the Congress to set a deadline on withdrawals Iraq. Of course Admiral Fox could provide no answer to that question other than to express confidence in the good sense of the American people. Personally, I thought that it quite amazing that Congress should think it could ever dictate a timetable upon events. Probably nothing is certain except that the Persian Gulf isn't Indochina. Oil and terrorism mean that the West will always be back and even Congress probably can't change that.