“It’s hard not to be optimistic,” said Army Col. Michael Beech, who commands the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, tasked with clearing the Dura neighborhood of Baghdad of the terrorists and criminal gangs behind the sectarian violence that exploded there in recent months. “I walk the streets of Dura every day, and what I see is that every day there are additional shops open that weren’t there before. I see the Dura market has increased traffic, and people in the Dura market shopping every day. The feedback I get from people on the streets is very promising.”
“Amaliya Ma’an ila Al-Aman”, or Operation Together Forward, is a joint Iraqi-Coalition effort to clear and hold Iraq’s capital city. A year ago it would have been impossible: The operation requires Iraqi security to take the lead in offensive operations, and to garrison areas once they are taken. Today, with 270,000 Iraqi police and soldiers on the job, it is working.
Hard metrics confirm Beech’s early optimism. According to the vehemently anti-war icasualties.org, August deaths among Iraqi civilians and security personnel declined from 419 in the first 10 days of the month to 254 in the second nine – a 33% decline.
(Needless to say, MSM has preferred to concentrate on the JULY numbers, before the operation began, as evidence of its failure.)
At the same time, coalition casualties continue at a 3-year low – roughly 1.5 deaths per day.
(Needless to say, MSM has preferred to concentrate on the number of attacks on our patrols, ignoring their effects.)
The operation, launched August 9th, involved 30,000 security personnel concentrated in Baghdad. Thus far, they have conducted 49,564 patrols. Ninety-seven terrorists have been killed, another 501 suspects detained. Fifty-nine caches of weapons and bomb-making materials have been seized in raids on terrorist safe houses.
In order to prevent a re-infiltration of criminal gangs in areas that have been cleared, the government forces are practicing an Iraqi version of “community policing.” Each neighborhood that is cleared is now paired with an Iraqi police division, and a U.S. military company. This provides security continuity for the population, so that residents can experience continuity in their government’s security efforts.
The evidence that this policy has paid off is a dramatic increase in Iraqi-coalition cooperation: tips that allow Iraqi and U.S. troops to root our more of the bad guys who made Dura a living hell over the past several months.
Because sectarian violence involves both Sunnis and Shi’ites, impartiality is essential – especially in mixed Sunni-Shi’ite neighborhoods like al-Dura. The coalition crackdown in Baghdad has included leaders and organizers of both Sunni and Shi’ite death squads. For instance:
– On August 18, the MNF-Iraq announced the arrest of three Shi’ite militia leaders for the July 9th drive-by massacre of 42 Sunnis in Jihad district of Baghdad.
– On August 19, the MNF-Iraq announced a series of raids in Baghdad that killed one al Qaeda cell leader, and netted three other Sunni terrorists accused of bombings and assassinations.
Operation Forward Together will succeed or fail depending on our ability to maintain security in the “cleared” neighborhoods of Baghdad over the long term. But the initial results of the operation are good for Iraqis, good for their elected government, and good for the Bush “Forward Strategy of Democracy.”
That’s why these results are systematically ignored in the defeatist, anti-American MSM.