I don't know if champagne is chilling somewhere in the Pentagon, but perhaps it should be. While the media was reporting an "increase" in U.S. combat deaths over the weekend, there were continuing signs that the insurgency is losing its steam, and that terrorist ring-leader Musab al-Zarqawi's days are numbered.
Zarqawi is putting on a brave front. Last week, he released a new video, showing his face on camera for the first time. Inspired by the bin Laden school of jihadist video, we saw Zarqawi firing an assault rifle, clad in a suicide vet and supposedly directing terrorist operations. It was, altogether, a pitiful display, designed to demonstrate that Zarqawi remains relevant in the insurgency.
Let's being with Zarqawi's status as "leader" of Al Qaida in Iraq. There have been peristent reports that the fugitive Jordanian has been removed from his leadership position, due to his penchant for killing innocent Iraqis by the score. Zarqawi's decision to mimic bin Laden on the tape was no accident; by emulating "the Sheik" on his propaganda tape, Zarqawi hoped to demonstrate that he remains worthy of leading Al Qaida troops in Iraq.
Zarqawi has also unveiled a new strategy for battling the U.S.-led "crusaders" in Iraq. Over the weekend, he announced plans to "raise an Army" to confront coalition forces directly. This tactic is designed to create the impression of a powerful, growing insurgency, now able to take on U.S. troops in conventional-style attacks. In reality, the strategy is intended to paper over a glaring deficiency in Zarqawi's organization: a declining number of foreign-born fighters willing to undertake "martyrdom" operations.
If Zarqawi is serious about a more "conventional" insurgency, it it tantamout to an admission of defeat. You may recall that the terrorists tried more "direct" attacks in the early days of the U.S. occupation of Baghdad. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of terrorists died when they tried to challenge U.S armored columns, backed by attack helicopters. The failure of that stage of the insurgeny forced the adoption of other measures, notably the roadside bomb campaign--the only terrorist tactic that has achieved any degree of success in Iraq. Recruiting and training a terrorist "army" will presumably divert resources away from the bombing campaign, another indication that things aren't going well for the jihadists.
Then, there's the question of where Zarqawi will recruit his fighters. True, the assorted fanatics will keep filtering across the border from Syria (and the Iranians may supply a few martyrdom candidates as well), but Iraq is proving a less fertile ground for new terrorists. Over the weekend, a senior Iraqi government official indicated that leaders of seven major insurgent groups are talking about a settlement to end their role in the insurgency. We're heard this kind of talk before--and I won't believe it until I see the terrorists stacking their weapons in Iraqi Army garrisons--but the "surrender" of these groups would be a powerful blow to the terrorists--and Zarqawi's plans. It's certainly hard to raise an Army when a large group of potential recruits decides to give up the struggle.
And, if that weren't enough, there's word that the dragnet around Zarqawi has tightened a bit more. Michelle Malkin reported over the weekend that U.S. special forces came close to nabbing the terrorist leader in a recent raid. Again, we've heard this type of report before, but there appears to be a major difference between this "close call" and a previous incident, when Zarqawi stumbled into a U.S. roadblock and had to flee on foot. According to Marine Corps Times, a veritable "all-star" team of SOF units has been assembled in Baghdad, and they're hot on the trail of Zarqawi. These units, operating as part of Task Force 145, include elements of SEAL Team 6, Delta Force, the British Special Air Service, U.S. Army Rangers, and the Air Force's 24th Special Tactics Squadron (combat controllers and pararescue specialists), among others. While it is true that SOF elements have been in the Sunni triangle since before the fall of Baghdad, this concentration suggests that the hunt for high-value targets has taken on a new urgency, and better intelligence is fueling the search.
Zarqawi might want to keep that suicide vest handy. It might come in handy very soon.
"Zarqawi might want to keep that suicide vest handy. It might come in handy very soon."
While I hope that you are right in that he will soon be captured or killed. I don't think that he will take the suicide route. My take on him is that while he is willing to kill anyone and to enlist people to blow themselves up, he doesn't have the guts to kill himself.
Call it a hunch or whatever, when he is faced by our men with "Green Faces" he will scream: " Don't kill me, I surrender!"
TF 145 has reached the tipping point.
When working a jigsaw puzzle the first battle is to flip the pieces... then find the borders... then stitch the perimeter together. Major themes come next. Finally, you get to the stage where you slowly grind down the unknowns -- and suddenly you're at the tipping point -- the tempo of discovery picks way up.
The only negotiating the unlawful combatants can do is to get the IA dogs off their back.
The tribal jigsaw puzzle is becoming complete. The unspoken family connections are now becoming clear.
Our biggest handicap is our own ethics. In a culture of endless deceit and generally low IQs the 'American way' finds its antidyne.
With a national IQ about one standard deviation below America's, Iraq has a hard time producing enough talent to flesh out a successful society.
Slow thinking is the best explanation for Sunni 'strategy'. Only an idiot would figure to fight 90% of his countrymen AND the world's most dominant power at the same time. Only a dreamer would figure two fatalities a day would drive off an army of 150,000 men.
The scary thing for the rest of the world's despots: the US Army is now clearly able to handle COIN operations with elan. Today's Army is more effective by an order of magnitude than any other.
Our media whines about this or that 'failure'. Other militaries say to themselves: " I can't do that. Can you do that? ... Who ARE those guys?"
BTW, glad to have you on board the economic battlefront. Even the WaPo is starting to get it.
Each barrel pumped by Iraq comes at the strategic expense of Iran -- and don't they know it.
If you want to trim the mullah's sails -- get to pumping.
BTW, Iraq pumped twice as much in the late seventies as it does now. She is fully capable of pumping 10,000,000 bbl per day for decades. The vast bulk of her reserves have never been tapped. She has oil all over the place -- to include the Sunni heartland.
It was not so long ago that the US Army discovered that the oil pipelines to Turkey were being attacked by its 'protector' and that he and his son had hundreds of ghost troops within their command. Off to Europe he is. Since that day, attacks on that section have collapsed.
The Kuwaitis and Iraqis need to cut a deal to punch and produce from the gigantic field that straddles their borders. This deposit is one of the worlds largest -- but was unresolvable with Saddam & Co running the show. All by itself it could deliver 2,000,000 bbl per day -- think east Texas.
It is essential that the national IQ of Iraq be lifted ASAP. That can best be achieved by pre-natal care and radically improved nutrition. School construction must proceed rapidly.
Let the building boom begin.
BTW, English as a second language ought to be pushed for all college bound students.
Well, Zarqawi and AQI have been bit players for a while now. The majority of attacks in the country now are not from foreign fighters, but from militias and internal factional groups. The Sunni's have pushed Zarqawi aside and for the most part no longer support him. The orgy of murder against children and worshippers in mosques that characterized Zarqawi's attacks alienated him from his Sunni support structure. As a result, he's had a tough time importing foreign fighters for suicide attacks. His switch in tactics is driven by necessity since the Sunni population won't support his mass murder tactics anymore.
The entire nature of the insurgency has changed in the last few months so that factional militias are now the primary players. The primary reason there aren't as many coalition casualties is because these militias, for the most part, are busy killing their opponents in other militias. There is still Zarqawi and former regime elements running around, but their capability has been dimished quite a bit.
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