Is an Immediate Withdrawal From Iraq Still the "Adult" Move?
Damien Cave at the NYT writes that Baghdad is now reportedly clear of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia.
American forces have routed Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the Iraqi militant network, from every neighborhood of Baghdad, a top American general said today, allowing American troops involved in the “surge” to depart as planned. General Fil attributed the decline to improvements in the Iraqi security forces, a cease-fire ordered by the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, the disruption of financing for insurgents, and, most significant, Iraqis’ rejection of “the rule of the gun.”
His comments, in a broad interview over egg rolls and lo mein in a Green Zone conference room, were the latest in a series of upbeat assessments he and other commanders have offered in recent months. But his descriptions revealed a city still in transition: tormented by its past, struggling to find a better future.
The Long War Journal has more extensive analysis from Bill Ardolino. His reasons, restated in bullet form are:
- “The Surge” and counterinsurgency tactics
- The rise of the Iraqi people and “reconciliation”
- Strengthened Iraqi Security Forces
- Declining sectarian cleansing and refugee flight
- The truce with Muqtada al Sadr and the Mahdi Army
- Tightened security at the borders
Ardolino's list probably covers most of the ground. My only comment is that it's more fruitful to think of Ardolino's enumeration not as a list but a linked list. A linked list is one in which some items lead to others. Some items precede others. They contain pointers to items further along the list. Thus, the Surge leads to declining sectarian cleansing and refugee flight, and not the other way around. Strengthened Iraqi Security Forces are precursors to the truce with Muqtada al Sadr and the Mahdi Army, and not the other way around. The alternative is to imagine you can start anywhere in the list and go to anyplace from there. But I don't think that describes the structure of what happened.
What's really interesting to consider is whether the rise of the Iraqi people and “reconciliation” was an emergent event. That is to say, an event not caused by the Surge but numerous factors in the environment, of which the Surge was one.