Commentary Magazine


Letter from the Front

Has the surge already failed? That’s the impression you get from the MSM. The reality on the ground is a little different. Although the last surge troops only arrived in June, they have already had a significant impact. How significant? In preparing to testify before a congressional committee tomorrow, I put that question to a friend of mine, an American officer serving in Baghdad. Here is his response, which he agreed to let me share with contentions, provided that I did not use his name (I’ve added explanations of a few acronyms):


Here are some positive results of the surge strategy to date—I’m sure you’ve got the negatives down pat from all the media reports.

- Deaths caused by sectarian violence in Iraq are down 75 percent from January to June

- VBIED’s [vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices]/Suicide attacks cut in half from March to June; VBIED’s at lowest level since August 2006

- Casualties from VBIED’s cut in half from February to June

- Attacks in Al Anbar cut by 80 percent since February

- ISF KIA [Iraqi Security Forces killed-in-action] at 2-3 times the level of Coalition KIA—Iraqis are fighting and dying for their country

- Tribes are rejecting Al Qaeda in Al Anbar, Salah Ad Din, Ninewa, Diyala

- AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq] is on the defensive and slowly dying—BUT WE NEED TIME TO FINISH THE JOB or they will recover

- Government of Iraq is rejecting militias and authorizing strikes anywhere in Iraq

- Government of Iraq responded well to second Samarra Mosque bombing

- Government of Iraq has formed a Reconciliation Committee to engage local groups and bring them into the process against Al Qaeda and in support of the GoI

- Government of Iraq improving budget execution

The big negative, of course, is lack of political reconciliation at the national level, but this is a lagging indicator. Progress is being made at the local level, and I believe the national leaders will follow in due course once the trend is clear.

Best from Baghdad,

[Name Deleted]