Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, head of the Joint Special Operations Command's operations in Iraq, is the chief promoter of a victory declaration and believes that AQI has been all but eliminated, the military intelligence official said. But Adm. William J. Fallon, the chief of U.S. Central Command, which oversees Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, is urging restraint, the official said. The military intelligence official, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity about Iraq assessments and strategy.
Senior U.S. commanders on the ground, including Gen. David H. Petraeus, the head of U.S. forces in Iraq, have long complained that Central Command, along with the CIA, is too negative in its analyses. On this issue, however, Petraeus agrees with Fallon, the military intelligence official said.
For each assessment of progress against AQI, there is a cautionary note that comes from long and often painful experience. Despite the increased killings and captures of AQI members, Odierno said, "it only takes three people" to construct and detonate a suicide car bomb that can "kill thousands." The goal, he said, is to make each attack less effective and lengthen the periods between them.
Right now, said another U.S. official, who declined even to be identified by the agency he works for, the data are "insufficient and difficult to measure."
"AQI is definitely taking some hits," the official said. "There is definite progress, and that is undeniable good news. But what we don't know is how long it will last . . . and whether it's sustainable. . . . They have withstood withering pressure for a long period of time." Three months, he said, is not long enough to consider a trend sustainable.
McChrystal runs the JSOC, an pretty secret organization comprised of mostly special operations folks whose primary mission is the elimination of AQI. They develop intelligence and conduct kinetic strikes where the intelligence is verified and actionable. And they've been very successful (as I recall, 28 AQI leaders were killed or captured last month).
That said, I agree with Fallon and Petraeus that 3 months isn't a long enough period "to consider a trend sustainable".
But - you knew that was coming - some things to consider.
Leaderhip attrition and area denial are two the the things that have hurt AQI the worst.
"They are less and less coordinated, more and more fragmented," Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq, said recently. Describing frayed support structures and supply lines, Odierno estimated that the group's capabilities have been "degraded" by 60 to 70 percent since the beginning of the year.
Its not just the support structure and supply lines which have been degraded, the leadership has as well. Just like we point out that it takes years to develop effective leaders in the military, one of the things slowing the development of the ISF, AQI suffers from the same problem. While they can fill the position fairly rapidly, the level of experience and ability may not be at all like that of the previous leaders. And that leads to "less coordinated" attacks which are, in turn less effective and usually more lethal to the attacker than the defender.
The Surge has also denied them areas where they had built an infrastructure. AQI had identified Baghdad as the center of gravity, just as we have, and it was necessary for AQI to successfully create enough chaos in that city to spark sectarian violence and inhibit any chance for a functioning government to form. Since the clear, hold and build strategy has been implemented, AQI has been forced out of the belts surrounding Baghdad and has been unable to effectively attack Baghdad. It has, per MNFI, shifted its attacks to northern Iraq.
What has to happen now is to not worry about "declaring victory" over AQI, but to step up JSOC ops even more and sustain this for another 6 months. If, at the end of that total 9 month total period, we've pared the organization down even further and we see even less of a coordinated effort than we do now, I think we might be able to at least declare AQI "combat ineffective" meaning its organization will have effectively been rendered unable to accomplish its mission of disrupting Iraqi reconciliation.
BTW, that's two and two days from the WaPo in which it has said positive things about the effort in Iraq. I keep looking up to ensure the sky isn't falling.
Yeah, thing is they’re still apparently hoping against hope, that this crippling is an illusion... and that the WH is under-estimating things again.
Check the way the second para of the article is worded:
But as the White House and its military commanders plan the next phase of the war, other officials have cautioned against taking what they see as a premature step that could create strategic and political difficulties for the United States. Such a declaration could fuel criticism that the Iraq conflict has become a civil war in which U.S. combat forces should not be involved. At the same time, the intelligence community, and some in the military itself, worry about underestimating an enemy that has shown great resilience in the past.
In short they’re admitting it looks good, but are still thinking and apparently hoping it won’t be looking good shortly.
Just a few months ago, the experts were telling us with great confidence that there would be a major uptick, a "surge" if you will, in al Qaeda activity in Iraq just prior to the September report to Congress by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the head of U.S. forces in Iraq.
We are still waiting for the al Qaeda "surge" to materialize (just like we are still waiting for Jason Leopold to "sting" the sources of his "Rove has 48 hours to get his house in order" story).
We know the MSM really only likes to report "unhappy for Bush" news, and they definitely don’t like to bring attention to their own stories that don’t pan out, but the real indicator of al Qaeda in Iraq is their, more or less, absence of any ability to influence the media or political opinion through their non-materializing actions. Even, UBL now seems unable to scare a goat, except perhaps with that beard straight from a Ed Wood movie.
Even still, the Democrats don’t like to talk about Iraq anymore, and only months ago they were crediting their stand on Iraq for the November 2006 electoral success.
I guess Harry Reid was right. The war is "lost" .. for the friends of the insurgency.
The funny part, of course, is that instead of needing to pull out because we’re losing so badly, the anti-war groups will tell us we need to pull out because we’re winning hardcore. Victory - it’s the new defeat! (or vice versa?)
Yeah, but the VC and NVA were a different animal than AQI. But then, AQI never had a capability remotly comparable to the VC. The VC could actually fight stand up battles. Against the US (and usually against the ARVNs) they lost those stand up battles, but they could fight them. At Ap Bac the VC actually beat ARVNs equiped with M113s (the exposed .50 gunners really suffered).
Interesting how Scott is sitting this thread out. Guess some news is just too painfull.
Yes, I thought that he would be tripping over the furniture to get in here and reassure everyone that mighty al Qaeda strong as ever.
I guess there are not enough hours in a day to give the enemy all the support he needs. Plus, Scott must be aware that military families read this blog and need to have gratuitous demoralizing sentiments thrown their way by greasy academics as often as possible. So, his absence from this thread is inexcusable.
Of course, since we now know that neither the Iraqi Shiites nor the Iraqi Sunnis can stand al-Qaeda — and since therefore the only possible way it could maintain any significant presence in Iraq even if we do pull out is if the Sunnis reluctantly embrace it after all as emergency allies in a coming civil war against the Shiites (in which case any al-Qaeda soldiers will be too busy either shooting at Shiites or running for their lives to devote much time to planning attacks against the US) — we ARE left with the tiny question of why al-Qaeda’s presence in Iraq is being declared as a reason for us to massively stay there in the first place...
It’s long been a mainstay of Scott’s arguments against the Iraq War that it provokes more Muslims to join AQ and radical Islam than it kills or dissuades.
I’ve heard this claim since 2002; however, it’s never backed up with data. I’m sure that some Muslims are radicalized, but how significant those numbers are and how deep the bench of Muslims likely to be so radicalized is not clear. If there were that many, it seems they would have shown their overwhelming numbers by now.
Those making this claim never consider the countervailing effects of killing and imprisoning radical Muslims and demonstrating that we are not the "weak horse" in this conflict, they are.
Also, if we are afraid of offending radical Muslims, we are essentially undercutting moderate Muslims, whoever they are, who will be even more reluctant to stand their ground.
It’s hard to get around the logic that often the best way to fight is to fight.