The surge is working, which is why we don’t hear nearly as much about Iraq in the media these days. Yesterday the New York Post had a really interesting article about why the surge is working even though it isn’t at its full strength yet:
‘I WALKED down the streets of Ramadi a few days ago, in a soft cap eating an ice cream with the mayor on one side of me and the police chief on the other, having a conversation.” This simple act, Gen. David Petraeus told me, would have been “unthinkable” just a few months ago. “And nobody shot at us,” he added.
Petraeus, the new commander managing the “surge” of troops in Iraq, will be the first to caution realism. “Sure we see improvements – major improvements,” he said in our interview, “but we still have a long way to go.”
What tactics are working? “We got down at the people level and are staying,” he said flatly. “Once the people know we are going to be around, then all kinds of things start to happen.”
More intelligence, for example. Where once tactical units were “scraping” for intelligence information, they now have “information overload,” the general said. “After our guys are in the neighborhood for four or five days, the people realize they’re not going to just leave them like we did in the past. Then they begin to come in with so much information on the enemy that we can’t process it fast enough.”
In intelligence work – the key to fighting irregular wars – commanders love excess.
Another change: an emphasis on protecting of gathering places like mosques and marketplaces. “We initiated Operation Safe Markets,” Petraeus said, “and have placed ordinary concrete highway barriers around the vulnerable targets.” Car bombings have dropped precipitately – the limited access thwarts them.
As a result, “The marketplaces, including the book market that was targeted for an especially vicious attack, are rebuilding and doing great business. It is helping the local economy enormously to have this kind of protection in place.” With jobs plentiful and demand growing, the appeal of militia armies declines proportionally.
Nor is the Iraqi government simply standing aside and allowing U.S. and Coalition forces to do their work. The Shia prime minister walked the Sunni streets of Ramadi recently, meeting and greeting the people – “acting like a politician,” Petraeus said, without malice. “He is making the point with them that he intends to represent all sectors of Iraqi society, not just his sectarian roots.”
Good news. With surge only in its beginning stages, hopefully things will get even better as time goes on. I only wish the surge had been implemented much, much earlier.