IT'S the beginning of January, and, this month finds the U.S. commanding general in Iraq satisfied that the Iraqis are going to fill the gaps left by retreating Americans and carry on with the last remaining hook the administration has used to justify their continuing occupation; the routing of 'Iraqi al-Qaeda' which had no foothold in the country at all before Bush invaded.
General David Petraeus (and the White House) has planned the withdrawal of five military units from Iraq, to be completed by July. That withdrawal would only represent the troops numbers of troops provided to effect his "surge." One hundred and thirty-thousand American troops will remain in Iraq indefinitely, stranded without any action by Bush to actually end the occupation. What was really gained by the 900 or so American deaths which occurred in Iraq almost a year after Americans removed Bush's republican majority and replaced them with Democrats pledged to end the occupation?
Petraeus apparently feels the 30,000+ additional troops deployed earlier in the year -- against the demonstrated will of the vast majority of Americans in the November 2006 congressional elections -- weren't as significant a force in the increased military assaults on resistant Iraqi communities as were the Iraqi recruits who make up the new army and police.
"It is very important to remember that our surge is dwarfed by the Iraqi surge that is taking place," Petraeus said during a PR tour for a pool of reporters. ""The official Iraqi security forces has increased by something like 110,000 or so in the past year -- during which (time) our surge was 30,000," along with "70,000 plus concerned local citizens." he claimed.
There is no acknowledgment from the administration of the role of the leader of one of the main militant groups of combatants in Iraq, al-Sadr, earlier in the year, in successfully urging his followers to refrain from attacks and violence. The sectarian divisions which erupted in Iraq following the removal of the controlling rule of Saddam remain the most pernicious intigator of violence in the country, outside of outright resistance to the U.S. occupiers and their enabled Iraqi regime.
Anyway, despite Petraeus' optimism, the numbers of Iraqis who have been trained, equipped, and are regularly reporting for duty has long been in dispute. The WaPo reported Monday, that the U.S. will now allow the Iraqi government to 'set the size' of its army and police forces -- and do the counting and accounting of those Iraq forces, as well.
"While previous reports have listed numbers authorized by the Coalition and provided estimates of numbers on the payroll, the GoI (Government of Iraq) is now responsible for determining requirements and counting personnel," the Pentagon reported, according to the Post. "Therefore, reporting will now reflect GoI statistics."
Yet, the same Pentagon report admits that the Iraqi Interior Ministry hasn't a clue about the actual state of their own military, and doesn't know "how many of the approximately 376,346 employees on the payroll are regularly reporting for duty." Nonetheless, the administration is set to allow the Iraqis to account for the local forces they say we've been waiting for them to muster before our own troops leave.
No matter. No one really believes that this administration was actually concerned with the activities of the 'Iraqi al-Qaeda,' to the extent of the hyperventilated fear-mongering from Bush and his minions throughout last years election season. There wasn't any more than 2-3 percent of the sectarian violence in Iraq which was attributed to al-Qaeda. But, Bush and his White House minions repeatedly conflated the presence of copycat combatants in Iraq who took on the 'al-Qaeda' moniker, with the original terror suspects they've allowed safe haven in Afghanistan since their escape from Tora-Bora some six years ago.
Now, with reports from the Iraqi government this month that over 70% of the 'Iraqi al-Qaeda' have been eliminated, it stretches belief to accept any assertion by the U.S. military or the White House that the al-Qaeda in Iraq -- which Bush repeatedly encouraged to "fight our soldiers there" -- poses any threat at all to the U.S. beyond Iraq's borders. Iraq is nothing but a diversion from the administration's failure to capture and prosecute the 9-11 suspects Bush claimed he wanted "dead or alive."
Few (outside the administration) have actually accepted that the occupied ground the military has gained and held following their "surge" is a valid substitute for their propped-up Iraqi regime's lack of any political progress, which the administration claimed, at the outset, was integral to the increased deployment.
What appears to be shaping up in Iraq is an administration attempt to push off some of the function of our occupying forces to the Iraqis -- which is a good thing for those who want our troops to take on less. But, there hasn't been the same shift in priorities for our forces to Iraqis from those who intend to keep the bulk of them bogged down there, playing nation-builders. Even as Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno is forging an agreement to hire even more 'volunteer' Iraqis to fill the roles of our occupying forces, there is still the prospect of 130,00+ American troops remaining in Iraq through the inauguration in January 2009.
There were 45 Iraqis killed, 56 wounded, just this Tuesday, reminding of the prevalence of violence and it's inevitable persistence in Iraq, despite the best efforts of our military to intimidate and eliminate those who would commit such acts. It was reported this week that over 16,232 Iraqi civilians were killed in 2007. All of that violence and unrest can be laid directly at the foot of Bush and his decision to manufacture a conflict in Iraq and declare (along with his enabling militarist, bin-Laden) the sovereign nation to be the "center" of his terror war.
"We cannot let up -- they (al-Qaeda) are much more on the defensive right now than they have been in years and that is where we have to keep them," Petraeus told reporters.
Speaking from the unstable ground our nation's soldiers hold, with dubious intent, in Iraq, the general must have been reflecting, more, on the prospect of a shift in focus -- away from the Iraq diversion -- to a return to the actual 'hunt' for the "perpetrators" the original congressional authorization for the use of military force mandated his military to pursue and capture, than he was reflecting on any actual importance in continuing to play whack-a-terrorist with individuals ironically fostered and fueled by the very presence and operation of his occupying army.