The U.S. military believes it has dealt devastating and perhaps irreversible blows to al-Qaeda in Iraq in recent months, leading some generals to advocate a declaration of victory over the group, which the Bush administration has long described as the most lethal U.S. adversary in Iraq.
Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, head of the Joint Special Operations Command’s operations in Iraq, is the chief promoter of a victory declaration and believes that AQI has been all but eliminated, the military intelligence official said.
So can we bring our troops home now?
But Adm. William J. Fallon, the chief of U.S. Central Command, which oversees Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, is urging restraint, the official said. The military intelligence official, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity about Iraq assessments and strategy.- Advertisement -
Just as many determinations coming out of Iraq in the last few years have been contradictory, this particular view is no exception.
The Congressional Research Service recently warned U.S. commanders have increasingly "seemed to equate AQ-I with the insurgency, even though most of the daily attacks are carried out by Iraqi Sunni insurgents." Gen. James Jones, the author of detailed report on Iraqi security forces, said that 98 percent of more of the fighting is an internal civil conflict among Iraqis.
If 98 percent of the violence is coming from the Sunni Insurgency, and that Insurgency as we've seen in Anbar Province has begun to turn against AQ-I, then most of "our job" really does appear to be done. Excepting of course for the Shiite Death Squads and the increasing unease among the largely Shia' and Iran supported Iraqi government at the increasing rise of Sunni influence and control.
The administration’s "Anbar strategy" holds the perilous possibility "that we just end up arming the Sunnis, who still hate the Shi’a...and that eventually the Sunni tribes end up fighting it out with the central government." Echoing this concern, the largest Shiite political coalition in Iraq urged the U.S. military to "abandon its recruitment of Sunni tribesmen into the Iraqi police."
Yeah, that plan seems to be working to perfection doesn't it?
Admittedly the deja vu factor of this declaration is not just a figment of your imagination - particularly since Gen McChrystal happens to be the exact same person who originally recommended that "Major Combat Operations" in Iraq had been completed in April of 2003.
"I would anticipate that the major combat engagements are over," Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal told reporters at a Pentagon briefing. He said U.S. forces are moving into a phase of "smaller, albeit sharper fights."- Advertisement -
Maybe all of this might be better understood if we look at recent statements by the former commander of Iraqi Forces when that original "Mission Accomplished" banner was raised - Lt. Gen Ricardo Sanchez.
"There was been a glaring and unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership within our national leaders," he said, adding later in his remarks that civilian officials have been "derelict in their duties" and guilty of a "lust for power."
Iraq is a living nightmare with no end in sight.