Monday, March 21, 2005

Fading Fast in Iraq

The signs of insurgent defeat seem to be growing. This Burns piece from the New York Times is certainly getting some notice.

Note this about the Baghdad area known as Haifa Street:

For now, the days when rebels could gather in groups as large as 150, pinning down American troops for as long as six hours at a time, have tapered off. American officers say only three Haifa Street mortars have hit the Green Zone in the past six months; in the last two weeks of September alone, 11 Haifa Street mortars hit the sprawling zone.

As the LTC who commands the American battalion that is pulling back to let two Iraqi battalions take over noted:

"I've got the enemy to the point where he can't do large-scale operations anymore, only the small-scale stuff," he said recently, during one of his last
patrols, at the head of a company of 120 soldiers.

And note this ambush that went awry for the insurgents south of Baghdad:

U.S. soldiers, ambushed by dozens of Iraqi militants near the infamous "Triangle of Death," responded by killing 26 guerrillas in the largest single insurgent death toll since last fall's battle for Fallujah, the U.S. military said Monday.
Note a few things. One, our guys ripped apart the direct-fire ambush. Of 30-40 attackers, 26 were killed.

Second, the fact that it was a direct-fire ambush is odd:

"I was surprised at the numbers," said Staff Sgt. Timothy Nein, a squad leader for the 617th Military Police Company of Richmond, Ky., and a native of Henryville, Ind., involved in the firefight. "Usually we can usually expect seven to 10."

Why wasn't it an IED ambush? And why so many? Are the bomb-makers getting knocked off? Are their supplies drying up? Did they risk so many of their gunmen because they had no choice but to mass a platoon's worth to have a shot at doing some damage?

Third, note that we suffered 7 wounded in winning this small battle and then note:

Reporting on Sunday's big firefight, the U.S. military said MPs and artillery units from the Kentucky National Guard were traveling along a road 20 miles southeast of Baghdad around noon when 40 to 50 militants emerged from a grove of trees and a roadside canal firing automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.

No offense to the National Guard is intended, but we decisively beat the insurgents with our reserve troopss. Some of whom were part of an artillery unit!

Then note this article:

Hundreds of thousands of rusty munitions — leftovers from the Iran-Iraq war — are scattered across the green fields and gentle hills of the two countries' common border. Long ignored, they are now being harvested by insurgents who recycle them into crude but highly deadly bombs to use against U.S. and Iraqi troops.

This is a far cry from the use of ammo looted from Saddam's arms dumps or weaponry flowing in from Syria and Iran. The insurgents are scavenging old ammunition from two-decade-old battlefields.

Smaller groups of insurgents. Poor insurgent skill levels. Poor supply.

Right now it looks like the enemy is fading. If this holds for awhile, we may be able to reduce our troop presence far sooner than people think.

If it holds.