Thursday, July 27, 2006

Still Our Fight

We have to win the war we are in and not the war we would like to be in.

Our efforts in Iraq to turn over more battlespace to Iraqis is taking a detour around Baghdad:

For months, American commanders in Iraq have talked of their desire to withdraw most U.S. troops from Baghdad's dangerous streets and pull them back to the relative safety of big, wellguarded bases outside the capital.

In an interview Wednesday, the commander of day-to-day U.S. military operations in Iraq explained why he plans to do the opposite — push more American troops into the city's neighborhoods, making them responsible for stopping sectarian violence.

The sectarian fighting between Sunnis who continue to slaughter Shias (and Sunnis and Kurds) and the Shias who are increasingly striking back against random Sunnis threatens to expand into a Shia and Kurdish slaughter of Sunnis if we and the government can't get the thugs under control.

This is unfortunate but we have to do it. As I wrote back in April in regard to the Tal Afar model:

This article makes an excellent point. And I'm not a particular fan of Robert Kaplan. Even though in general it is wise to turn over turf to Iraqis, in areas where ethnic populations come in contact like this city, it may be wise to set down roots for a while as we and our allies have done in Bosnia to separate warring factions from each other.

I even noted that Baghdad could be a candidate for this approach:

So consider the Tal Afar model for some areas. Iraq is a big country and one solution does not work everywhere. As the enemy seems to go after Baghdad targets, we may need to redeploy existing forces to use the Tal Afar model inside Baghdad or parts of it.

Jobs for Iraqis are being emphasized as part of the military job in Baghdad. It looks like one American and two Iraqi brigades are going in. Our total strength (from the LAT article):

Nine thousand U.S. soldiers, 8,500 Iraqi soldiers and 34,000 Iraqi police officers provide security in Baghdad. Military officials plan to bolster those numbers with 4,000 additional U.S. troops and 4,000 more Iraqi soldiers.

If we only need to focus on certain regions of the city of six million, this could be enough. We certainly don't have enough there to blanket the whole city at a sufficient density.

In addition to the additional troops, a new approach to Baghdad is certainly needed.

It will not be a low casualty mission as Tal Afar has been, however. That happy stage requires breaking the enemy in the city first. And that will be a while what with the work we need to do in Baghdad. And when we finally finish, I hope I do not have to ask yet again why Moqtada al Sadr is still alive.