Monday, September 15, 2008

More evidence that the "Surge" hasn't "worked"

The New York Times reports that a major Sunni Awakening figure was assassinated in Baghdad, after he refused to stop working and preaching ( he was an imam) to encourage Shia-Sunni reconciliation. Those in the US who tout the "success" of the Surge (the McCain-Palin camp, especially) harp on the decline in fatalities (both US military and Iraqi civilian) and the supposed restoration of normalcy in Baghdad, and insist that US forces need to stay and fight on to ensure "victory." Their myopic focus on stability (and stability in and of itself, of course, is surely a good thing for the people of Iraq, who have suffered too long and so underservedly) misses the point that even General David Petraeus has insisted upon all along. Stability and protecting the population are only instruments - required steps along the way - to achieve the desired result in Iraq: political reconciliation, resulting in an Iraqi political settlement that everyone can buy into.

And that's simply not happening. Car bombings and assassinations continue; Mosul and Kirkuk are tinderboxes of continuing Arab-Kurd tensions; the Shii-dominated government of Nuri al-Maliki is keeping the Sunni "Sons of Iraq" at arm's length, and is more likely to round them up and arrest and detain them than to give them jobs in the army or police; and provincial elections, already once postponed, are likely to be plagued with violence between Sunni and Shii factions, and between factions within each of those communities.

Meanwhile, even as Mr. Bush has decided to maintain US troop eevels in Iraq at levels higher than before the Surge started, the US is facing a growing crisis in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. A report from Afghanistan indicates that the country is in its worst shape since 2001. And if that wasn't worrisome enough, Reuters reports that Pakistani troops yesterday fired on and drove away US Chinook helicopters that had entered Pakistani airspace and were evidently about to land US troops. Official sources from both sides deny it, but local officials and villagers insist that's what happened. And if that's indeed what happened, Mr. Bush may feel it necessary to send even more troops to Afghanistan, perhaps as his way of saying to the Pakistani government (as he so famously said early on in his "war on terror") that "what we say, goes."


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