Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Grim Visage of the Infernal Invitation of Terrorism ...

From TNR (hat tip, AS), a picture of how clear-hold-build is a strategy that has not been executed too often in favor of shuttling around troops in a whack-a-mole approach.

As one officer remarked to Congress, how can you leave [pull out or drawdown] and then expect the populace to welcome you back when or if you return? It's a relentless effort to get it right consistently, a constant pressure campaign that requires forward motion, a steady struggle to maintain whatever trust and predictability has been built.

But either way, a persistent and tragic theme of our operations in Iraq has been the one-step-forward-two-steps-back sliding of towns and regions in and out of security: Through immense effort American forces will calm a city, then troops there will be drawn down and all their work will be lost; and on, and on, and on. Lawrence has written several persuasive stories for us on Tall Afar, the insurgent Northern Iraq outpost tamed by innovative and amazingly intense military efforts to connect with its population; he also lamented what may happen when these particular now-expert troops are blindly rotated out of the town as was scheduled
What is more alarming is this conclusion, that al-qa'ida is able to consolidate politically gains from the chaos they impose:

By Dafna Linzer and Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, November 28, 2006; Page A01

The U.S. military is no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency in western Iraq or counter al-Qaeda's rising popularity there, according to newly disclosed details from a classified Marine Corps intelligence report that set off debate in recent months about the military's mission in Anbar province.

This conclusion is debated in the story by an intelligence official. The TNR picture is also a mosaic truth.

Together, these imply that the uncertainty is still very high.

However, one does start to get the sense that al-qa'ida, alongside the insurgency, have gotten quite good at refining tactics: Random violence and post-verbal evil to tear at the fabric of society (al qa'ida) and fear, greed, and intimidation to consolidate political power (the insurgency).

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