WASHINGTON - The US "surge" strategy in
Iraq has "considerably improved overall levels of
security during the past quarter", according to
the most recent quarterly report released by the
Pentagon on Tuesday.
The report, Measuring
Stability and Security in Iraq , states that
the number of security incidents has fallen
significantly and is now at levels last seen in
the summer of 2005.
For example, the
number of high-profile attacks in Iraq declined by
50% since March 2007. The report says weekly
improvised explosive device (IED) attacks have
dropped 68% since June; the number of US troop
deaths from IEDs fell to the lowest levels since
January, 2006. However, the number of suicide
attacks involving car bombs and individuals
wearing vests filled with explosives was up
slightly from October to November.
Coalition forces continue to transfer
responsibility for security to the Iraqi
government. Karbala province transitioned to
provincial Iraqi control on October 29, bringing
the total number of provinces for which the
government has lead security responsibility to
eight of 18 provinces.
provinces are hardly stories of stable success.
Baghdad may be secured by US and Iraq forces for
the moment but could easily plunge back into
conflict. Diyala and North Central Iraq remain a
combat zone. In fact, despite an overall decline
in attacks, to the level of the summer of 2005,
violence has remained relatively high in northern
Iraq, where US forces have been thinly spread, the
In the northern province of
Nineveh, for example, the effort of the Sunni
insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq to reconstitute
has kept attacks above last year's level. Nineveh
now ranks third among the provinces, after Baghdad
and Salahuddin, in terms of average daily attacks,
with about 14 per day, up from being fifth this
And southern Iraq, especially now
that the British have handed over control of
Basra, is being abandoned to an intra-Shi'ite
power struggle, between Shi'ite cleric Muqtada
al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and Supreme Islamic Iraqi
Council leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim's Badr
The report attributes the
reduction to several factors, including:
The continued decrease in capabilities of
al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and militia extremists.
Increased tribal initiatives against AQI and
Muqtada's ceasefire order to his Mahdi Army
The increased capability of the Iraqi military
The separation of Iraq's previously mixed
sectarian communities into homogenous
The sustained presence of coalition and Iraqi
forces among the population.
Some of those
reasons, however, may be less real than thought.
According to a new analysis by the Center for
Strategic Studies and International Studies (CSIS)
in Washington, DC, the staffing levels for both
the Iraqi military are higher on paper than it is
in reality. For example, only 161,380 personnel
are now assigned to the 208,111 authorized manning
for the Iraqi military. And that lower number is a
total from Iraqi government payroll data and not
personnel actually present for duty.
problem is worse when it comes to Iraqi police. US
State Department data states that 255,601
personnel were assigned to an authorized manning
level of 271,850. Again that is a total for
payroll data. Actual manning available for duty is
probably closer to 180,000 to 190,000.
Furthermore, only 142,138 of the personnel
supposedly on the payroll have been trained
According to the CSIS report, currently
only about one third of the nearly half a million
men supposedly on the payroll of the Iraqi
security forces consist of regular military with
some credibility as growing and effective forces,
If the growing local militias and Facilities
Protection Service - a mixture of low-grade
security forces with virtually no training and
strong ties to various factions - are included the
percentage drops to a little over 20%.
Even the Pentagon report acknowledged that
as of November 21,000 Iraqi soldiers had been
dropped from the rolls this year after going away
Meanwhile, the police are
still plagued with corruption and sectarian
behavior. Several thousand were fired because of
criminal records, corruption or other problems,
and nearly 200 were fired for militia activity,
according to the report.
Of course, nobody
would say that the war is won.
the Pentagon report was released on the same day
the UN Security Council voted unanimously to
extend the US-led multinational force in Iraq for
one year. Authorization for the 160,000-strong
multinational force was extended until the end of
2008 because "the threat in Iraq continues to
constitute a threat to international peace and
security", according to the resolution.
The Pentagon report acknowledged that the
most important factor, political reconciliation,
was still problematic. The report stated,
"National reconciliation is required for long-term
stability but continues to be hindered by slow
progress and competing interests."
"Challenges remain at the national level"
on achieving reconciliation, the report said. "The
key to long-term success will be the government of
Iraq's ability to capitalize upon local gains,
pass key legislation and promote national