Sunday, October 23, 2005

Progress in Iraq

Opponents of the war in Iraq like to cite our casualties as proof we are not winning. As we reach 2000 dead in Iraq, many will note that casualties continue to mount and are not declining over time. Therefore, they claim, we are not making progress to end the insurgency. How can we claim we are winning, they say, if we can't seem to make progress?

But we are making progress. Our casualties go up and down monthly yet remain largely constant, it is true; but this would indicate military stalemate only if we were continuing to fight on the same battlefield. And even if there was a miltary stalemate, as long as political and economic progress is made behind that shield, we are in fact winning. But our troops are not fighting on the same battlefield as last year. From battles in the Baghdad region we have turned over the routine policing duties and combat against lower level insurgents to expanded and trained Iraqi security forces. This has allowed us to move US troops into the far west of al Anbar province and the regions west of Mosul near Syria:

October 23, 2005: As Iraqi police and soldiers take over more security duties, more American troops are available for offensive operations, and they are making more patrols and raids inside Sunni Arab areas. The Syrian border is particularly hot. Over the weekend, intelligence efforts discovered five terrorist safe houses, which resulted in attacks by smart bombs and ground troops. At least twenty terrorists were killed, and large quantities of weapons, bomb making materials and documents were captured. The documents, and interrogations of captured suspects leads to more information on where the terrorists have there safe houses, weapons caches, and travel routes across the Syrian border (the main source of suicide bombers, who are almost all foreigners, and cash.) The increased American offensives has led to increased casualties, with the rate up to the August level (close to three American deaths a day).

So remember that while casualties continue, we are on new battlefields. As we atomize the enemy out west and move in Iraqi security forces able to pacify the region against weakened enemy forces, we will finally be able to begin to pull back into a reserve role and to guard against conventional Syrian or Iranian threats. Then our casualties will decline even as Iraqis fight and die to preserve their new democracy.

We will have other tasks to do to help the Iraqis stand on their feet completely before we can pull out of Iraq. The faux press crisis over what it means to be able to fight unaided and the completely ignorant uproar over one or three Iraqi battalions able to fight without any American help at all have nothing to do with when we can begin to draw down combat forces engaged in offensive operations. The day will arrive sooner than such uproars would lead you to believe.

Until then, we are winning. Blathering charges of incompetence to the contrary. How will those charging incompetence explain our victory when even they cannot ignore the reality on the ground?