03 February 2007

The Problem In Iraq.

A friend recently returned from deployment in Iraq writes to say that this article by Tom Lasseter accurately sums up the problem in Iraq. Writes my friend (an officer in the Air Force):

If you want to know the crux of the problem there, this is it in my humble opinion. In my very brief time over there, this was, by a very large margin, the most discussed issue among the senior leadership. Sadr isn't leading just an insurgency, it's a movement. And the thing is, he's just a thug with a big family name. He's my age and has a majority of the Iraqi parliament beholden to him...including Maliki. We can't kill him because of the chaos it would cause among bona fide insurgents AND Iraqis supposedly on our side.

From the article:

The U.S. military's drive to train and equip Iraq's securityforces has unwittingly strengthened anti-American Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, which has been battling to takeover much of the capital as U.S. forces are trying to secure it.

U.S. Army commanders and enlisted men who are patrolling east Baghdad --which is home to more than half the city's population and the frontline of Sadr's campaign to drive rival Sunni Muslims from their homes and neighborhoods -- said Sadr's militias had heavily infiltrated the Iraqi police and army units that they have trained and armed.

''Half of them are JAM. They'll wave at us during the day and shoot at us during the night,'' said 1st Lt. Dan Quinn, a platoon leader in the Army's 1st Infantry Division, using the initials of the militia's Arabic name, Jaish al Mahdi. "People [in America] think it's bad, but that we control the city. That's not the way it is. They control it, and theylet us drive around. It's hostile territory.''

The Bush administration's plan to secure Baghdad rests on a ''surge'' of about 17,000 more U.S. troops to the city, many of whom will operate from small bases throughout Baghdad. Those soldiers will work to improve Iraqi security units so American forces can hand over control of the area and withdraw to the outskirts of the city.

The problem, many soldiers said, is that the approach has been tried before and resulted only in strengthening Sadr and his militia.

Amid reports that Sadr is telling his militia leaders to stash their arms and, in some cases, leave their neighborhoods during the American push, U.S. soldiers worry that the latest plan could end up handing over those areas to units that are close to Sadr's militant Shiite group.

"All the Shiites have to do is tell everyone to lay low, wait for the Americans to leave, then when they leave, you have a target list and within a day they'll kill every Sunni leader in the country. It'll becalled the `Day of Death' or something like that,'' said 1st Lt. Alain Etienne, 34, of Brooklyn, N.Y. 'They say, `Wait, and we will be victorious.' That's what they preach. And it will be their victory.''



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