Michael Totten

Iraq at the End of the Surge

“Last week I wrote”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/totten/45151 that many Americans and Iraqis I spoke to in Baghdad recently expect a surge of violence after American troops withdraw from Iraqi cities as stipulated by the recently signed Status of Forces Agreement. Many readers seemed surprised by that pessimistic forecast and wondered, after two years of good news, if it could even be true. “Your report and that of Michael Yon,” Richard Everett wrote “in the comments section”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/totten/45151?cp=1#comment-2365572, “published on the same day on the same subject are at so great variance that one has to ask; ‘are you two in the same country?’ He is positive, you are not. Why the extreme difference?”
Michael Yon did, indeed, publish an upbeat report on the same day called “The Art of the End of the War”:http://www.michaelyon-online.com/the-art-of-the-end-of-war.htm. I encourage everyone to read it. Yon’s work is always accurate and informative, and this time is no exception. Richard Everett is right to point out that my piece was gloomy while Yon’s piece was not, but Iraq is complex. Iraq produces good news and bad at the same time.
“Al Qaeda was handed a vicious defeat in Iraq,” Yon wrote, “and it can be said with great certainty that most Iraqis hate al Qaeda even more than Americans do. Al Qaeda can continue to murder Iraqis for now, but al Qaeda will be hard pressed to ever plant their flag in another Iraqi city. The Iraqi army and police have become far too strong and organized, and the Iraqis will eventually strangle al Qaeda to death.”
I have no doubt this is true. In some Iraqi cities — Fallujah, Ramadi, Bacouba, and some parts of Baghdad — every day was September 11. Al Qaeda fanatics car-bombed and mass murdered their way into power. Some Iraqis, unlike Americans, have actually had to live under the rule of Al Qaeda. They hate Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al Zarqawi like no one else. After Anbar Awakening leader Sheikh Sattar Abu Risha was assasinated by a car bomb in front of his house in Ramadi, his brother Ahmed Abu Risha said “All the tribes agreed to fight al Qaeda until the last child in Anbar.” How many Americans talk about Al Qaeda like that?
Al Qaeda has been by far the most vicious and sadistic terrorist group in Iraq, but there are many other groups still skulking about in reduced numbers — the Mahdi Army “Special Groups,” Hezbollah, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq, and some others have been seriously bloodied and weakened, but they still exist. It’s a near certainty that there will be spike in terrorist and insurgent activity when Americans clear the streets because Iraq’s most effective counterinsurgents will have cleared out of the way. That doesn’t mean the terrorists and insurgents will win. It means there will be a partial security vacuum, and they will try.
I doubt any of the weakened terrorist and insurgent groups will be able to defeat the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police. A retired Iraqi Army general told me not to worry because when they are in charge they will rule the country with much greater force and less concern for human rights than Americans. I wouldn’t decribe that as encouraging, exactly, considering what Iraq looked like when it was ruled that way in the past. But at least we no longer have to worry overly much about Al Qaeda seizing power as Hamas did in Gaza after the Israel Defense Forces left. Al Qaeda doesn’t have even a fraction of Hamas’ popularity, and the Iraqi Army, unlike the Palestinian security forces, have been trained for years by American soldiers.
“Read the rest in Commentary Magazine”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/iraq-at-the-end-of-the-surge-13812.