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February 23, 2007

AUSTIN BAY:

"More troops" isn't the most significant aspect of the military "surge" in Iraq. . . .

Adding 20,000 troops to Iraq in a five- to six-month window is a significant increase but in and of itself not decisive, and certainly not a "new strategy."

The relentless, focused targeting of Shia and Sunni extremist organizations is a far more important feature of what Iraqis are calling "the new security plan" than more U.S. troops. The coalition's effort to better integrate the economic and political development "lines of operation" with security operations could have greater long-term effects. . . . Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the new security plan is the increased aggressiveness of the Iraqi Army as it conducts counterinsurgent operations. The Iraqi military defeat of the cultist "Soldiers of Heaven" planned attack on Najaf in late January provides a dramatic example. With coalition backup, Iraqi forces launched a spoiling attack and killed or captured several hundred militants.

Maliki's national reconciliation program remains the key Iraqi political endeavor. That program began well before "the new security plan," but no security plan will succeed unless reconciliation occurs.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Chris Muir, back from his embed in Iraq, emails:

I'm not sure if it's the same thing as the Office of National Reconciliation, but I can say that the Army's MiTT teams (Military transition teams) I observed in Mosul are heavily involved in training the IP (Iraqi Police) and the IA (Iraqi Army) to self- sufficiency in both organizational and cultural integration.

Some of the Army's best are actually referred to as 'going native' a la Lawrence of Arabia, and are living with the Iraqis, working with them from within as to their (and the Army's) goals.

The State Department appears completely absent from the theatre, and the Army has done the work of infrastructure projects & rebuild, community relations, political organization,etc.

When I look around my home here this morning, I appreciate more readily the invisible but strong level of infrastructure only possible with an organization and co-operation of a society. This is what I saw the Army doing for Iraqis from scratch, and as they reiterated to me there, it 'will take time' for the Iraqis to get to that day.

But will the American public give them the time of day?

That remains to be seen.

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