August 13, 2007

Another Sign Of Success

Major attacks in Iraq have dropped 50% since the start of the surge, USA Today reports. The majority of the improvement comes from the reduction of the al-Qaeda network in western Iraq, which has kept them from conducting large-scale operations:

The number of truck bombs and other large al-Qaeda-style attacks in Iraq have declined nearly 50% since the United States started increasing troop levels in Iraq about six months ago, according to the U.S. military command in Iraq.

The high-profile attacks — generally large bombs hitting markets, mosques or other "soft" targets that produce mass casualties — have dropped to about 70 in July from a high during the past year of about 130 in March, according to the Multi-National Force — Iraq.

Military officers say the decline reflects progress in damaging al-Qaeda's networks in Iraq. The military has launched offensives around Baghdad aimed at al-Qaeda sanctuaries and bases.

"The enemy had the initiative and the momentum in '06," said Jack Keane, a retired general who is a chief architect of the increase in troop levels and mentor to Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq. "We've got it now."

The importance of the strategy shift cannot be overstated. While the British approach of attempting to mediate between militias from afar has left Basra in shambles, the American strategy of engaging militias and terrorists has paid dividends on several layers.

First, the terrorists have no time to expand and strategize. They have to defend themselves from encirclement by American troops, which means they have to go on the run. Any time they move, they have to get out into the open, which exposes them to more danger. If they don't run, they have to fight military troops, battles in which they do not have the skillsets to succeed.

Second, terrorist tactics have enraged Iraqis and driven them away from the insurgencies. Even other insurgencies have found it necessary to ally with the US military to stop the inhumanity of al-Qaeda control. The terrorists have had to use these brutal techniques to frighten people into compliance with their leadership -- a sure sign of desperation. They're losing the hearts-and-minds battle.

Third, our tenacity allows the Iraqis to rely on us -- and that brings another level of unity. They have responded to our efforts by vastly increasing the intelligence that comes to the military, which allows us more success in tamping down the violence. They have begun to unify amongst themselves for their own protection as well, which helps build political strength for Iraq from the ground up. They feel liberated to participate in self-government.

What happens when General Petraeus comes to Congress with these numbers? It will show that the new strategy has, in the words of Keane, shifted the initiative and the momentum to the US. We have found a way to beat the terrorists -- and we had better continue to do so. Congress will find it very difficult to retreat from Iraq while we're succeeding.


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Comments (23)

Posted by steve sturm | August 13, 2007 8:59 AM

We need to distinguish between 'terrorist' (Al Qaeda) and 'insurgent' (intramural) attacks and targets.

While Al Qaeda may be on the run for the reasons you outlined, true 'peace' will never come to Iraq until the Iraqis themselves decide they'd rather share power than fight over it. Any reduction in the number of these intramural attacks probably has more to do with the Iraqis just waiting for the surge to pass by, in the same way, inner city drug dealers pass time during frequent - but temporary - police sweeps.

The goal of the surge was not to merely cut down on the violence but to build a foundation on which the Iraqis can build a society... and while we've seen reductions in violence, there's been precious little to suggest that the country as a whole is set on sharing power and control.

Posted by Monkei | August 13, 2007 9:11 AM

Captain, this is good news, however, are these statistics for Iraq overall or just the capital ... the surge was only supposed to be instituted in and around the capital ... are we mixing up statistics here and giving credit to the surge?

Posted by Bennett | August 13, 2007 9:21 AM

"Terrorist tactics have enraged Iraqis and driven them away from the insurgencies. Even other insurgencies have found it necessary to ally with the US military to stop the inhumanity of al-Qaeda control. The terrorists have had to use these brutal techniques to frighten people into compliance with their leadership -- a sure sign of desperation. They're losing the hearts-and-minds battle."

Perhaps in the end this will be the true legacy of all the mistakes and mismanagement we heard about the war from 2003 on, that AQ's initial success in establishing a foothold in various communities allowed the local population to learn what life under their rule would really be like. It's one thing to read and hear about the magnificent freedom fighters carrying the torch for the glory of Islam, quite another to get beaten up or killed for smoking a cigarette or carrying the wrong kinds of vegetables home from the market.

Posted by docjim505 | August 13, 2007 9:31 AM

Lies, lies, all lies! There are still attacks in Iraq! And-and-and there are TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS in Baghdad! Yeah, that's right! Proof that the Iraqi government is in shambles and Bush Lied (TM) and-and-and Halliburton!

/sarcasm and contempt

Keeping the terrorists on the move also has the effect of denying them a base for recruiting. It also tarnishes their image; not many people want to play for a losing team. A few years ago, Sadr and his militias were openly swaggering around Fallujah (IIRC). This was a major propaganda coup for them: "Look at us! The infidels and their lackeys dare not oppose us in the streets!" They've since learned that openly carrying arms earns nothing more than a quick visit from an Apache or a squad of paratroopers... and a quick trip to the afterlife. This is progress.

For those who "lament" (crocodile tears, in my opinion) that political gains are not coming quickly... What the hell do you expect? Instant Switzerland? The fact that Iraq HAS a multiethnic, democratically elected government and (unlike Vietnam) hasn't had government by coup is also pretty satisfying. They are trying to run a government in a country that is experiencing serious problems with terrorism (much of it extranational) AND that has damned little history of efficient rule AND is occupied by foreign troops. Compare and contrast the government of Iraq with that of (to pick a darling of the liberals) Palestine. No contest as to which functions more like a government and which is a shambles.

Have we got a long way to go? Probably. Is the enemy about to give up. Hell no; the dems are going to try to sink this thing in the hopes that it'll help them in '08. Will the terrorists quit? Not likely, because they have reason to hope that we will break before they do. Have the Iraqis got a lot of work to do? Sure. But I think they are on the right path; there is cause for hope.

Posted by kingronjo | August 13, 2007 9:39 AM

as usual Cap, you have a blind man. Sticking to the progressive Dem talking points he tries to shift the goalposts. All that he forgot to do was claim that all along they knew the surge would work militarily.

Your post makes amply clear that a political solution is coming together. Insurgencies that once fought each other are now joining together to fight Al-Qaeda. This is a ground based solution, not a top down one. In other words the local leaders are taking steps that eventually will ratchet up to the national ones. (Compare the lunacy of the national Dems to quite a few local Dem leaders).

We even saw yesterday a prominent Iraqi national politicians call for help in reducing Iranian meddling in their internal affairs. Again, to put it in simple words for simple minds, we need to stop Iranians from killing Americans and to ensure a stable, free Iraq. Tell me how the American military can help do this from Okinawa.

The Bush Derangement Syndrome is so ingrained in ultra-liberal progressives that any good news is called bad and anything that is working is failing. Its just a matter of time before one of these fellow (or gals) steps up and says, "lost? No Dem ever said we had lost in Iraq. That's just the Republican noise machine." And Harry Reid will be leading the charge.

PS- monkei makes a good point. Since 85%of all the violence in Iraq is occuring within 30 miles from Baghdad, that needs to be addressed. Tthe surge was specifically targeted for Baghdad and Anbar province, the drop in violence must be those areas. All accounts now have Anbar violence as very sporadic, an overwhelming success. Baghdad, being a large, built up urban area will take longer. Yet again, the numbers are down there also. (Michael Yon's web has details-unless he's part of the right wing conspiracy and not to be believed).

Posted by David M | August 13, 2007 9:51 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 08/13/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

Posted by fdcol63 | August 13, 2007 9:52 AM

Normally, I'm an optimist. In this case, however, I believe that the Democratic leadership are too invested in their "failed war" strategy for them to ever allow a successful outcome in Iraq.

Thus, they will continue to ignore any signs of success, and will continue to undermine the effort there.

And my fear is that they have already done so to such an extent that our enemies in Iraq - including Iran and Syria - know that America does not really have the political will to stay there long enough to ensure victory against either the "terrorists" or the other assorted "insurgents".

In trying to compel the Iraqi political leadership to "deal with the insurgency" on their own by forcing a premature American withdrawal, the Democratic leadership has really caused the Iraqi politicians to align themselves with the sectarian groups that they believe will ensure their own survival in the chaos and bloodbath that will follow the American departure whenever President Hillary, President Obama, or President Edwards takes office.

Posted by jerry | August 13, 2007 10:00 AM

As usual monkei shows his true military "genius". The Surge is a nationwide effort directed at those areas where AQI and other violent groups are operating. Since these groups are concentrated in the Sunni triangle and Baghdad it makes a lot of sense we are putting our main effort their.

Posted by Neo | August 13, 2007 10:05 AM

the surge was only supposed to be instituted in and around the capital

As jerry mentions above, the "surge" isn't only in Baghdad.

Posted by wolfwalker | August 13, 2007 10:26 AM

Congress will find it very difficult to retreat from Iraq while we're succeeding.

Don't bet on it.

Posted by M.A. | August 13, 2007 10:46 AM

Okay, so the number of spectacular AQ-style attacks has declined, but the number of actual attacks has not.

Conclusion: the "spectacular" attacks are not the problem. The problem is the civil war, and we are making it worse by staying. Petraeus presumably knows this, but he is committed to American defeat (defeat being defined as making Iraq worse and keeping America stuck there indefinitely), so naturally he will continue to concentrate his energies on fighting the minor Al-Qaeda presence in Iraq.

Posted by Okonkolo | August 13, 2007 11:59 AM

I guess the obvious needs to be repeated. While security has improved because of the surge (a surge, mind you, we cannot maintain permanently due to personnel matters), the whole point of the surge was to improve security so the Iraqis could "stand up" and make political progress. Benchmarks were put in place to provide political goals and enable a measuring of progress. The Iraqis were told progress needed to be made (they certainly have been aware of the growing impatience on the part of the American public), and that they would get military backing. And they not only have failed politically, not only have they failed to hit a single benchmark (man, you would think they could at least fake one), but their government is in tatters. I'll trust you don't need a rundown on each of these failures and the current situation. But for the security successes, the political result they were supposed to enable never happened; in a political sense, the surge has failed, I I do not see that changing. Can our military solve the political/social/religious/territorial problems of Iraq? No. Or, perhaps, maybe over the long haul (a decade, say). Perhaps not. I can understand if people want to make a long haul argument, but after so many deceptions, broken promises, shifting goals, etc., one can't blame the public for being sick of it, especially if they do not buy the argument that this is a front in the GWOT. And especially if the political problems don't seem to be solvable by military force and sacrifice. But to crow about how much a success the surge has been without a word of the failure of the end political result is to be disingenuous at the very least.

Posted by Ray | August 13, 2007 1:26 PM


The type of political and social change you describe is not something that can happen in just a few months, or even a few years. It literally takes decades due to the nature of human societies, they are very difficult to change.

You speak of "political/social/religious/territorial problems" which every society has faced, and still does. Here in America alone we struggle with the same problems. Do you think America should face some type of deadlines in which to change it's politics and meet some arbitrary goal? Do you think ANY society can meet deadlines as to the amount of change that is desired? No, that is nothing more than wishful thinking. Give the Iraqi's credit for what they are accomplishing and allow them to change in a manner and time frame that suite their situation, not ours.

It is unrealistic for us to demand certain political goals be met within a given time frame in Iraq (or anywhere else in the world) as even we can not make dramatic changes in the political and domestic environment in less than several decades, and we've been a country a hell of a lot longer than Iraq.

Just because change isn't happing according to a set timetable or in a manner that follows OUR demands, it doesn't mean that change is not occurring, that improvements are impossible, and that the situation is hopeless. Time is what the Iraqi's require now and we would be well advised to give it to them. It would be foolish to abandon the Iraqi people simply because that haven't achieved goals that we ourselves would be hard pressed to meet in a similar situation.

Posted by kreiz | August 13, 2007 1:31 PM

I'd like to believe in this is good news for the US. But doesn't it ignore or severely discount the effect of al Sadr's temporary disappearance from the scene? But upon his return, if his militia is allowed to roam free without interference from the central government, what expectation will we have of abated violence?

Posted by carol h | August 13, 2007 1:46 PM

For a more complete analysis of the surge look at the linked article. The good news on the surge is phony, hyped by people who have a vested interested in the surge succeeding. Look who is quoted in the article: Jack Keane, one of the primary surge planners and supporters. Is anyone surprised that he says it is working? If you look at the statistics it is clear that the situation in Iraq contiunes to deteriorate. For example, we hear that US military deaths in July were at the lowest levels since the surge began, but what is not stated is that deaths are always lower in the heat of the summer. In fact, military deaths in July of 2007 are the highest of any July since the war began. Also, deaths of Iraqi civilians and military deaths have increased 25% since July of 2006, clearly not a success for the Iraqi people. The number of guerilla attacks in June of 2007 was 46% higher than June of 2006 and the number of these attacks, averaging 177.8 per day, are highest they have been since May of 2003. I have a son in the Army currently stationed in Ramadi and he tells us the situation in his sector is much improved, but he also tells us that the Iraqis are incapable of pacifying their country. I expect a good report from Patreus, after all, he is unlikely to report negative results on a his own plan, but I am not fooled that it will reflect the real reality of that place.

Posted by Okonkolo | August 13, 2007 2:52 PM

As I said, if people want to make the long term argument, I get that. But people who want to make that argument are seriously hampered by the incompetence of those planning and running the occupation (not the troops, but the Pentagon and WH) and selling the American people on an ever-changing list of reasoning for being there. I'm not saying you are wrong, but this war has been run on the political cheap. To say we have to be there for ten, twenty, thirty years NOW, after the promise of a quick war, after saying things will get better any month now after X (take your pick) is not an easy sell. The WH tried the Korea comparison a month ago and it didn't go over too well, did it? And if benchmarks weren't achievable, why the heck were they attached to the surge plan? Just to buy six more months? Why were they there? For one, to give politicians cover that they were not just providing another empty six month punt down the road with no accountability; Americans are tired of an open ended war with little progress amid constant promises for better. How are Americans going to feel when Petreaus shows up and says that there has been some security progress, but politically the country is a disaster? Will politicians sign off on another six months? Will politicians try to sell the decades-long approach? Will the public accept that after the leaders of this effort have been so wrong about so many things so often? Big questions. I don't have those answers, though I suspect there has been so much credibility capital shed over the past four years that the long-haul sell might not fly (even if it is correct).
I guess to sum, I understand the long term argument, but I object to what I see as the blatant ignoring of the complete political failures of the surge, which is a very big part of the whole.

Posted by unclesmrgol | August 13, 2007 3:24 PM


Your argument could have been used against Lincoln during the Civil War, as he searched for a general willing and able to take the fight to the Confederates. Only the slightest amount of blame attached to Lincoln for McClellan's fiascos, as all extant correspondance shows, but Lincoln's reelection prospects were dim -- until US Grant came into play.

Now we have Petraeus on the loose, and it looks like he (and the resultant implementation of his "Petraeus Doctrine") is working.

So, if Bush is to be tarred with the brush of incompetance for his previous choices for MNF leaders, shouldn't he be given a kudo now?

Posted by Del Dolemonte | August 13, 2007 4:08 PM

carol h said

"The good news on the surge is phony, hyped by people who have a vested interested in the surge succeeding."

Hold on, you put two words in there by mistake. I just fixed it for you.

"The bad news on the surge is phony, hyped by people who have a vested interest in the surge failing."

That's MUCH better!

Since one of those people is the person you quote, the laughable Juan Cole, we can't take what he says seriously. After all, what does a college professor know about military operations? Cole is just throwing you red meat, writing what you military-haters want to hear. He and his agenda can't be bothered with "facts". He's also a racist who hates Israel.

Since Cole in the past has been wrong more than once, the penny-dreaful Salon is one of the only places still giving him a voice.

National Review's Jonah Goldberg tears Cole's "qualifications" down brick-by-brick here

Want more? Captain Ed's colleagues at Power Line had this to say about Juan:

And most damning is this piece originally in the Washington Times


"To note just a few of his doozies—all within his supposed specialty of “contemporary Middle Eastern history”—Mr. Cole claimed:

“Saddam Hussein... did not pay suicide bombers to blow themselves up.” (No, he paid the families after the deed was done.)

“Chemical weapons are not weapons of mass destruction.” (He even cited Saddam’s gassing of the Kurds in 1988 to support" this bizarre assertion.)

“[A]ccording to the September 11 Commission report, al-Qaeda conceived 9/11 in some large part as a punishment on the US for supporting Ariel Sharon’s iron fist policies toward the Palestinians ... and again in response to the Israeli attack on the Jenin refugee camp.”

The flaws in the last point are devastatingly obvious. As even passive observers of the attacks know, 9/11 was “conceived” many years prior—long before Ariel Sharon was even elected Prime Minister in early 2001. And the “Israeli attack on the Jenin refugee camp” didn’t even occur until 2002, the year after 9/11."{8CB258F9-D3C8-4EEE-A9E8-6DF395AB91DF}

Are you sure you want to hitch your wagon to Juan's star? After all, the man couldn't even get a teaching job at Yale.

Posted by carol h | August 13, 2007 6:26 PM

You may not like Juan Cole, but can you refute his numbers? It is true that more military members died in July 2007 than in any preceeding July of the war, it is true that Iraqi deaths are up and total attacks are also up. Can you refute these facts? You can cherry pick one stat, that "major" attacks are down, but to a dead US service member or Iraqi it doesn't matter if the attach was "major" he or she is still dead. Oh, and I don't hate the military. I am the granddaughter and daughter of Navy veterans, my BIL is a retired Navy Captain. My neice is in the Air Force and has deployed to Qatar, she will go to South Korea in Oct.m my nephew is in the Army and has deployed to Afghanistan. My son is currently in month 12 of a 15 month Iraq deployment. I volunteer in a military service organization weekly. I don't "hate" the military, I support the military. It makes me very angry to see it used in this doomed adventure and want our people brought home.

Posted by Monkei | August 13, 2007 6:35 PM

I claim no such thing jerko. That's why I asked the question. jerk.

Posted by Terry Gain | August 13, 2007 8:24 PM


Thank you for your wonderful scholarship. SO Juan Cole was for regime change before he was against it! Who would have known?

For those without time to follow the links here's Cole's pre-war statement as noted by Goldbeg's in his take down of Cole: "I remain convinced that, for all the concerns one might have about the aftermath, the removal of Saddam Hussein and the murderous Baath regime from power will be worth the sacrifices that are about to be made on all sides."

Posted by Otter | August 13, 2007 8:44 PM

'You may not like Juan Cole, but can you refute his numbers?' ~ carol h

Every single thing the racist, anti-semitic juan cole claimed was proved to be a Lie, and you still want to hitch your star to him because he got a couple numbers right, probably by actually doing his homework for once, and only once?

Posted by dave | August 13, 2007 8:46 PM

del dolemonte:
If you want to block out information that is uncomfortable for you, I realize that a very effective technique is to analyze every word that the messenger of the uncomfortable news says, find a mistake within it, and then use that mistake to discount everything that person has to say. I am glad this technique works for you.

If I show you something that the Captain has said that is clearly false, will you stop reading this blog? I doubt it.

It sounds like Prof. Cole has made some mistakes on his blog. It's a blog, get over it. You mention that Cole published something in the Washington times about the Husein not paying suicide bombers. I find this on his blog, which in context does not seem like a big deal (his point was that there was no proof), but I cannot find this in the Wash Times. I am not surprised that people make mistakes on a blog, but I find it hard to beleive that Cole would not be clear when writing an article. Can you give me the ref?

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