The London Telegraph, normally pro-American and somewhat supportive of the war in Iraq, writes a tough article on the result of the Fallujah truce, where it appears that we will eventually need to face an undiminished insurgency in the heart of the Sunni Triangle:
The town is currently a no-go area for US troops, and by extension, any westerner. Despite lucrative rebuilding contracts, none has entered the city since four contractors were killed and their bodies mutilated in March, prompting the American incursion. … My escort, a member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, which negotiated the peace deal with the marines, warned me that he would not be able to guarantee my safety if I set foot outside the car.
The reason for such caution was obvious. Brown-shirted members of the Fallujah Brigade, most of them former resistance fighters, manned checkpoints across the city. The few residents who agreed to talk were hastily smuggled into the back of the car. “Welcome to the free republic of Fallujah,” said one resident, who would not give his name. “We run this city now and no American will ever enter here again.”
While I understand the need to negotiate with Iraqis of all stripes — after all, they will be there after we’ve left — Fallujah still looks like a mistake. As reporter Jack Fairweather notes, the fact that we allowed the insurgents to outlast us will present us with problems in the future, as it already has in the South. We did better at negotiation with the Shi’a clerics trying desperately to protect the two sacred mosques in Najaf and Kufa; even while the fighting still goes on, we still patrol the cities, and no one’s under the impression we ran away. Fallujah looks a lot different, and caving in to the Sunnis (or appearing to do so) did nothing for our credentials with the majority Shi’a population.
If the Telegraph article reports the Fallujah situation accurately, we will find ourselves once again having to combat insurgents in that area, only this time they will have the confidence they may have lacked the first time around. They will not be easily beaten. Perhaps we may get lucky and pawn the problem off to Iraqi security forces, but from the state of the city, even Iraqi federals will have a tough time freeing Fallujah from its radical grip.
UPDATE: The Commissar at the Politburo Diktat wants me to buck up a bit here and take the long view, as well as some of CQ’s readers. All I can say is that I hope you are all right and I’m incorrect on this point.
MORE OPTIMISM: See Hugh Hewitt’s post of an e-mail from the Fallujah contingent of Marines. The e-mail is dated yesterday — and it sounds a lot better than the Telegraph, although to be fair it refers to surrounding territory and not Fallujah proper. It also indicates that the insurgents are using heroin and other drugs before going into battle … an interesting and significant bit of decadent behavior.