November 08, 2007

Good News and Bad News from Iraq

Folks have been reluctant to say this out loud, but the U.S. military has defeated Al-Qaeda in Iraq. The New York Times reports today on something everyone has been cautiously saying for a few months now:

BAGHDAD, Nov. 7 — American forces have routed Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the Iraqi militant network, from every neighborhood of Baghdad, a top American general said today, allowing American troops involved in the “surge” to depart as planned.

Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr., commander of United States forces in Baghdad, also said that American troops had yet to clear some 13 percent of the city, including Sadr City and several other areas controlled by Shiite militias. But, he said, “there’s just no question” that violence had declined since a spike in June.

“Murder victims are down 80 percent from where they were at the peak,” and attacks involving improvised bombs are down 70 percent, he said.

This is significant for two reasons. One, the guys we're fighting in Iraq so they won't "follow us home?" They've either been defeated or have left Iraq. The majority of the U.S. casualties today stem from clashes with and attacks by Shia militant groups. Are these guys also "bad?" Sure. Do they represent, though, a strategic threat to the United States? Abu Muqawama will let you answer that one for yourselves.

Second, don't pop the bottles of champagne just yet. For starters, Sunni militants are still very much a part of the Iraqi landscape, even though they have been expelled from Baghdad and are laying low elsewhere. But just as this reduction in attacks stems from the fact that the U.S. military has enjoyed battlefield success against those same Al-Qaeda-type groups, those groups linked to Al-Qaeda have just as often declared victory in Iraq and moved on elsewhere. Where? To Afghanistan, yes, but also to Lebanon and the Gulf -- where they see the next round of fighting taking place.

This is how Phase V of the Iraq War -- the fallout -- begins. Do the U.S. government and its allies have a plan for fighting Sunni militants once they leave Iraq and set up shop in Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, and Europe?