Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Baghdad: How goes the battle?

Commentary by David Reinhard


David Reinhard

It's time for a blunt assessment of our position in Iraq. Recruitment is down. We're disorganized from top to bottom. We can inflict harm on the enemy, but we're unable to gain and maintain territory and no sooner do we make progress than the enemy offsets his losses with new replacements. Beyond all this, we're failing to win hearts and minds in Iraq. We're losing the public-relations war in the media and even the mosques. Bottom line: Every year is worse than the prior year.

OK, who wrote this? An anonymous source atop the U.S. Central Command? An anti-war blogger? One of the ex-generals, editorialists or politicos crying for Donald Rumsfeld's scalp?

You're forgiven if you picked any or all of the above. The author will surprise you if you're a citizen of "All is lost" or "Iraq's another Vietnam" America. The author is an unknown al-Qaida terrorist whose papers were seized in Iraq last month.

Al-Qaida's man in Iraq is as grumpy as a Bush-hater with a "Mission (Nothing) Accomplished" bumper sticker. "Most of the mujahidin power lies in surprise attacks (hit and run) or setting up explosive charges and booby traps. This is a different matter than a battle with organized forces that possess machinery and suitable communications networks," he writes. "Thus, what is fixed in the minds of the Shiite and Sunni population is that the Shiites are stronger in Baghdad and closer to controlling it while the mujahidin . . . are not considered more than a daily annoyance to the Shiite government."

No wonder. He bemoans a "clear absence of organization" among the jihadists and concedes U.S. success in averting a civil war after the Golden Dome bombing: "The role that the Islamic party and the Islamic Scholars Committee play in numbing the Sunni people through the media is a dangerous role. It has been proven from . . . events that the American investment(s) . . . were not in vain. In spite of the gravity of the events, they were able to calm down the Sunni people, justify the enemy deeds, and give the enemy the opportunity to do more work without any recourse and supervision."

This may be jihad-ese for "The Great Satan is winning Sunni hearts and minds."

And don't get him started on the Shiites: "It has been proven that the Shiites have a power and influence in Baghdad that cannot be taken lightly. . . . During a military confrontation, they will be in a better position. . . ."

Al-Qaida's "annoyances" are designed "to show in the media" the Americans and Iraqi government "do not control the situation and there is resistance," but the author knows this strategy keeps them from seizing power in Baghdad.

"At the same time, the Americans and the Government were able to absorb our painful blows, sustain them, compensate their losses with new replacements, and follow strategic plans which allowed them in the past few years to take control of Baghdad as well as other areas one after the other," he writes. "That is why every year is worse than the previous year as far as the mujahidin's control and influence over Baghdad."

Maybe he'd cheer up if he read U.S. newspapers or listened to public radio more.

OK, perhaps we can't trust the al-Qaida guy's take. After all, he's under the gun. How about a retired U.S. general who can take a look from a critical distance, someone who's been a critic of Bush's Iraq policy and Rummy? Wasn't this the rage weeks ago?

As it happens, retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a Persian Gulf War commander, just issued a report on Iraq. He lists the problems -- Iraq forces are "very badly equipped" and civilian U.S. governmental support is "grossly inadequate" -- but also the successes. The Iraq army is "real, growing, and willing to fight," he writes. "They now have lead action of a huge and rapidly expanding area and population. . . . The recruiting now has gotten significant participation by all sectarian groups to include the Sunni. . . . This is simply a brilliant success story."

As for al-Qaida, he writes: "The foreign jihadist fighters have been defeated as a strategic and operational threat to the creation of an Iraqi government."

McCaffrey's bottom line: "There is no reason why the U.S. cannot achieve our objectives in Iraq."

Maybe he had seen the al-Qaida author's papers?

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