Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Diyala Valley

In the Diyala valley of central Iraq, bordering on the Sunni triangle, the Iraqi Army’s 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade appears well on the way to completing a transition toward independent operations, according to a report filed by the Christian Science Monitor’s Neil MacDonald. Roadside bomb attacks have abated, and almost ceased, down more than 30% in July as compared to the same month one year ago, with an even more substantial decline registered in August. In an area of more than 1,100 square miles, with a population of some 300,000, the unit has the primary responsibility for local security. In fact, American troops recently closed a forward operating base in the region, “since the area was so calm,” according to Lieutenant Colonel Roger Cloutier of the US Army. Both Americans and Iraqis, writes MacDonald, declare that “the relative peace in the breadbasket is the result of a carefully managed transition from US to Iraqi security.” Importantly, “the local Sunni Arabs appear inclined to climb aboard the US-backed political process, rather than trying to derail it through violence.”
The Iraqi 2/2 is certainly in front of the curve, but hardly anomalous. More than a dozen of Iraq’s eighteen provinces are largely untroubled by the terrorist “insurgency”, and the three Kurdish provinces are experiencing an economic boom. The Brookings Institution’s Iraq Index reports nearly 80,000 Iraqi Army soldiers and guardsmen a as “operational” as of this month. But progress isn’t what the bulk of the “mainstream” media want to discuss. (For more on this topic, see “The Media Quagmire” at the Weekly Standard, by Power Line’s Scott Johnson.) As Opinion Journal’s Robert L. Pollock reports from Baghdad, “a visit quickly makes plain that the latest ‘quagmire’ panic in Washington is widely off the mark. True, the security situation in Baghdad remains a long way from what it should be; but neither do the insurgents control swaths of territory – think Fallujah – as they used to. What’s more, the heavy lifting is increasingly being done by Iraqis. ‘The Iraqi Brigade that owns Haifa Street has done something that we could never do,’ Gen. Petraeus told me over lunch. Iraqi security forces are far more visible, and with competent Iraqi leadership such success stories will multiply slowly but steadily. It will be, in Donald Rumsfeld’s famous words, ‘a long, hard slog.’ But it should increasingly be an Iraqi slog.”

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