Monday, April 11, 2005

Live Free or Die

Neo-Neocon has a heartfelt post in honor of everyone's favorite Iraqi blog, IraqtheModel, as they celebrated what they call the "Eid of Liberty" on April 9 - the day of their liberation two years ago from Saddam Hussein. Be sure to read both posts.

And how fitting is it that we get confirmation that true victory in Iraq is in sight from our commanders in theater. From the New York Times:

Two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the American-led military campaign in Iraq is making enough progress in fighting insurgents and training Iraqi security forces to allow the Pentagon to plan for significant troop reductions by early next year, senior commanders and Pentagon officials say.

Senior American officers are wary of declaring success too soon against an insurgency they say still has perhaps 12,000 to 20,000 hard-core fighters, plentiful financing and the ability to change tactics quickly to carry out deadly attacks. But there is a consensus emerging among these top officers and other senior defense officials about several positive developing trends, although each carries a cautionary note.
...

Several top associates of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant whose network has claimed responsibility for many of the most deadly attacks, have been captured or killed in recent weeks. American commanders say it now takes longer for insurgents to regroup and conduct a series of attacks with new tactics, like the one on the night of April 2 against the Abu Ghraib prison that wounded 44 Americans and 13 Iraqi prisoners.
...

The American military's priority has shifted from waging offensive operations to training Iraqi troops and police officers. Iraqi forces now oversee sections of Baghdad and Mosul, with American forces on call nearby to help in a crisis. More than 2,000 American military advisers are working directly with Iraqi forces.

More Iraqi civilians are defying the insurgents' intimidation to give Iraqi forces tips on the locations of hidden roadside bombs, weapons caches and rebel safe houses. The Pentagon says that more than 152,000 Iraqis have been trained and equipped for the military or the police, but the quality and experience of those forces varies widely. Also, the Government Accountability Office said in March that those figures were inflated, including perhaps tens of thousands of police officers who are absent from duty.

Interviews with more than a dozen senior American and Iraqi officers, top Pentagon officials and lawmakers who have visited Iraq yield an assessment that the combination of routing insurgents from their sanctuary in Falluja last November and the Iraqi elections on Jan. 30 has given the military operation sustained momentum, and put the Bush administration's goal of turning Iraq over to a permanent, elected Iraqi government within striking distance.

"We're on track," Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview. But the insurgency "kills virtually every day," he warned. "It's still a very potent threat.
...

Precisely when and how many American forces withdraw from Iraq hinges on several factors, including the security situation, the size and competence of newly trained Iraqi forces, and the wishes of the new Iraqi government. Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top commander in Iraq, told CNN two weeks ago that if all went well, "we should be able to take some fairly substantial reductions in the size of our forces" by this time next year.

General Casey has declined to describe the size of any possible troop reductions, but other senior military officials said American force levels in Iraq could drop to around 105,000, or about 13 brigades, by early next year, from the 142,000 now, just over 17 brigades.

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