Diary

The successful surge strategy in graphs

Every picture tells a story, don’t it. The following graphs don’t tell the whole story of the surge strategy because Iraq is a big and old and complex place, but they do provide some measures of how the strategy is going, and it’s going quite well. Civilian casualties are way down, to historic lows.

So are U.S. military casualties.

A hat tip to Engram for the above two graphs. The graphs below came from a Powerpoint file, courtesy of Michael Yon. The Powerpoint link is more complete than what I cut-and-pasted, and I blame my inferior blogging skills. Security incidents are way down.

ISF and U.S. military casualties are way down, even though the ISF launched major operations in Basra, Sadr City and Mosul.

High-profile attacks are way down, which is testament to our success against al Qaeda and their ability to find ‘splodeydopes Islamists who are willing blow themselves up (and anyone else who happens to be in their blast zones).

Ethno-sectarian violence is pushing zero.

This is not because all the neighborhoods and communities have already been ethnically cleansed. They’re still mixed albeit less than they used to be. The reason is because al Qaeda is getting shredded and Shiite militias no longer have a reason to go on late-night hunts for military-age Sunni males.

IED explosions are way down, which is a strong indicator that we’re making progress against Sunni insurgent groups and Iranian-backed Shiite militias.

Weapons caches found and cleared are way up, which is also a measure of our strategy because obtaining intelligence against the various insurgent and terrorist groups is a key component.

Political progress is also being made, as Ambassador Crocker has testified. Sorry, no pictures for that. Engram has some commentary which is worth excerpting:

A while ago, people were fond of asking this question: if you knew then what you know now, would you still have supported the invasion of Iraq? I think now might be a good time to ask a similar question of those who opposed the troop surge. Specifically, if you knew how successful it would turn out to be, would you have still opposed it?

Barack Obama’s answer would appear to be “yes,” and that really amazes me. In a new op-ed, he says:

]But the same factors that led me to oppose the surge still hold true. The strain on our military has grown, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated and we’ve spent nearly $200 billion more in Iraq than we had budgeted. Iraq’s leaders have failed to invest tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues in rebuilding their own country, and they have not reached the political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge.

…In any case, the real question on my mind today is this: if you knew how successful the surge would turn out to be (look at my charts above), would you have still opposed it? That is, are you comfortable with the idea that tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis would have surely perished in the God-forsaken bloodbath that would have undoubtedly followed our quick departure? Remember, the fighting at the time had nothing at all to do with a lack of political accommodation. Instead, al Qaeda was relentlessly sending its suicide bombers against innocent Shiite civilians.

Perhaps Obama didn’t catch Crocker’s testimony, what with his campaigning and all. Political accommodations are happening all over the place in Iraq. We haven’t reached all of them because the strategy is a work in progress, but given the progress made since last September, it would be reasonable to conclude that we should stick with a plan that is working, not abandon it. Obama did not make that conclusion. He was on the wrong side of the issue in January 2007, during Iraq’s darkest hour, and he’s on the wrong side of the issue today. He hasn’t acknowledged that the strategy has worked, he hasn’t said that he would adopt this strategy if elected, and he’s rejected the Petraeus plan every step of the way, despite the clearly mounting evidence that Iraq is becoming more stabilized by dint of this plan. General Petraeus doesn’t get all the credit because several fortuitous events have happened along the way, but at least partial credit is due. On the single most important decision on Iraq since 2003, Obama’s decided poorly. Like with Kerry on the Gulf War, Obama is on the wrong side of history.

While I’m on the subject of Obama’s NYT op-ed, here’s another statement, and it’s patently ludicrous:

Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism, and it never has been.

Never has been? This is judgment you can trust? It is true that Iraq was not a central front of the War Against Militant Islamism in 2003, but al Qaeda [i]made it one[/i] in the ensuing years. At the very minimum, Iraq [b]is[/b] one of two main fronts in the WAMI. To verify this, all you have to do is look at the suicide bombings in Iraq this year. I count 31, not including the latest attack in Baquba. Imagine if Israel experienced that many suicide terrorist attacks in 2008, and I’m pretty sure there hasn’t been more than 31 suicide bombings in Afghanistan, which is Obama’s stated central front. This is why I say that al Qaeda is losing, but they’re not vanquished, and it’s also why I say that Obama’s statement that Iraq never was a central front in this war is patently ludicrous. Engram has more on Obama’s ludicrosity.

There’re a couple of more things about Obama’s op-ed that stick in my craw. First, his opening sentence:

The call by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki for a timetable for the removal of American troops from Iraq presents an enormous opportunity.

The shelf life of this sentence was about four hours. The BBC has an accurate translation of what al Maliki actually said:

US presidential contender Barack Obama has repeatedly seized on statements attributed to Iraqi leaders to support his call for a troop withdrawal deadline.

The key statement cited by Mr Obama and others was made by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki last Monday in his address to Arab ambassadors in the United Arab Emirates.

The prime minister was widely quoted as saying that in the negotiations with the Americans on a Status of Forces Agreement to regulate the US troop presence from next year, “the direction is towards either a memorandum of understanding on their evacuation, or a memorandum of understanding on a timetable for their withdrawal”.

That was the version of Mr Maliki’s remarks put out in writing by his office in Baghdad.

It was widely circulated by the news media, and caught much attention, including that of Mr Obama.

There is only one problem. It is not what Mr Maliki actually said.

In an audio recording of his remarks, heard by the BBC, the prime minister did not use the word “withdrawal”.

What he actually said was: “The direction is towards either a memorandum of understanding on their evacuation, or a memorandum of understanding on programming their presence.”

I don’t blame Obama for his incorrect opening sentence because it was al Maliki’s own office that inserted the word “withdrawal” instead of “presence”. But the fact still remains that Obama’s opening sentence is inoperative, and a key leg of his argument has been knocked out from under him. Dr. iRack has a fair perspective on the State of Forces Agreement negotiations.

1. The Iraqi leadership knows that the Iraqi public continues to dislike the U.S. presence, and in an election year those concerns have to be accounted for.

2. The Iraqi leadership–Maliki in particular–is much more confident in the capabilities of the ISF, making them willing to bargain harder during negotiations.

3. Whether or not they want a timetable for withdrawal, they want a “time horizon” that establishes some parameters for the draw down of U.S. forces and the transition from a lead-U.S. role to a U.S. support role.

But . . .

4. Most Iraqi leaders recognize, deep down, that they will still need the U.S. to provide support and critical enablers to the ISF for a while to come even as the U.S. moves out of the lead in combat operations.

Here’s another Obama statement:

That is why, on my first day in office, I would give the military a new mission: ending this war.

So here are the questions: What war is Obama talking about? And how would withdrawing troops under his iron timetables end it? Obama can’t be talking about al Qaeda because, by his own words (which are obviously wrong), Iraq isn’t a central front in our war against al Qaeda, plus he said he would leave residual forces for counterterrorism operations. Is he talking about civil war? It can’t be that because, with one keystroke, Obama ended the civil war in Iraq. One minute there’s this on his webpage:

“The goal of the surge was to create space for Iraq’s political leaders to reach an agreement to end Iraq’s civil war.”

The next minute, the civil war is gone. Peace in our time. Is Obama talking about Sunni insurgents? Or Shiite paramilitias? Or Shiite Special Groups? I can’t say for sure, but if we’re at war with any or all of these groups, how does withdrawing our troops under an arbitrary and politically contrived timetable end the “war”? The groups are still there, and they’re still mounting operations. Only, if we withdraw, they target fellow Iraqis (which they’ve already been doing) exclusively, instead of fellow Iraqis and American forces.

The bottom line is this. Barack Obama either doesn’t understand or is unwilling to acknowledge the nature of the conflict and the steps to address it. Al Qaeda is in Iraq, they’ve made it a central front and they’re still a threat there. Iraq remains a major battlefront in the WAMI. Leaving won’t end that war. Rather, we’d be exiting a field of battle, and for all the wrong reasons. Iranian-backed Shiite militias are a threat to Iraqi security. Leaving won’t end that war because the Quds forces are still there and they’re still meddling. So what is the nature of the situation in Iraq? Given the graphical data above, my take is that we are entering (finally) a genuine phase of stabilization and reconstruction. Obviously, there are still hot spots, but if you look at Brookings’ numbers, there are over 478,000 trained Iraqi forces, and an increasing number of battalions are taking the lead as time passes. Because of the improvement in these conditions, we should be able to send more troops home, with their replacements deployed to Afghanistan.

This is why Obama’s proclamation to “end this war” is such a cheap slogan, and disingenuous to boot.