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July 07, 2008

Iraq May Pass Schedule for Withdrawal of All US Troops

Another sign of victory. The Iraqis have never wanted a foreign army on their soil -- who would? -- but of course needed one.

They need it far less now.

raqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki raised the prospect on Monday of setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops as part of negotiations over a new security agreement with Washington.

It was the first time the U.S.-backed Shi'ite-led government has floated the idea of a timetable for the removal of American forces from Iraq. The Bush administration has always opposed such a move, saying it would give militant groups an advantage.

The security deal under negotiation will replace a U.N. mandate for the presence of U.S. troops that expires on December 31.

"Today, we are looking at the necessity of terminating the foreign presence on Iraqi lands and restoring full sovereignty," Maliki told Arab ambassadors in blunt remarks during an official visit to Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.

"One of the two basic topics is either to have a memorandum of understanding for the departure of forces or a memorandum of understanding to set a timetable for the presence of the forces, so that we know (their presence) will end in a specific time."

The left will spin this as Maliki embracing their surrender-at-all-costs agenda, but of course it doesn't. What made this possible? Victory over Al Qaeda, al-Sadr, and other extremists.

And it's not like conservatives want US troops in foreign lands just for grins and goofs. We also want the troops home -- after the crucial war is won. And we're just about there:

* Al Qaeda driven from last stronghold in Mosul.

n Mosul, Al-Qaeda’s last redoubt, the group still held sway as recently as Easter. Now it lacks the strength to fight the army face to face and has lost the sympathy of most of the ordinary citizens who once admired its stand against the occupying forces and their allies in the Iraqi army.


“Two days ago the insurgents fired two RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] on our post,” Abdullah said. “Yesterday they attacked us with machinegun fire.” To the colonel, these seem small-scale affairs.


Brigadier-General Abdullah Abdul, a senior Iraqi commander, said: “Al-Qaeda in Mosul is pretty much not able to do the attacks that they could do previously. They are doing small attacks and trying to do big ones but they are mostly not succeeding.”

The Iraqis and Americans have got Al-Qaeda on the run. How have they come so far, so fast?

The article goes on to describe the tactics that have driven Al Qaeda out.

* "Spectacular victory" in Mosul.

American and Iraqi forces are driving Al-Qaeda in Iraq out of its last redoubt in the north of the country in the culmination of one of the most spectacular victories of the war on terror.

After being forced from its strongholds in the west and centre of Iraq in the past two years, Al-Qaeda’s dwindling band of fighters has made a defiant “last stand” in the northern city of Mosul.

A huge operation to crush the 1,200 fighters who remained from a terrorist force once estimated at more than 12,000 began on May 10.

Operation Lion’s Roar, in which the Iraqi army combined forces with the Americans’ 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment, has already resulted in the death of Abu Khalaf, the Al-Qaeda leader, and the capture of more than 1,000 suspects.

* Maliki declares the terrorist siege of Baghdad has been lifted, and city saved.

"When we took over Baghdad it was under siege, with all roads leading to neighbouring provinces controlled by terrorists. They had surrounded Baghdad from all sides, backed by the bad intentions of other countries," Maliki told a gathering of top Iraqi and US officials including Washington's envoy to Baghdad Ryan Crocker.

"We wanted these nations to support and assist us in stabilising the country but they were thinking of finishing Baghdad," he said, without naming the countries.

"But Baghdad continues to stand," the Shiite prime minister said in a speech marking the fifth anniversary of the killing of prominent Shiite leader Mohammed Bakr al-Hakim in a 2003 car bombing in the holy city of Najaf.

"Yes, there are still Al-Qaeda militants left but they are being chased. We are hunting them. But we have been able to lift the siege of Baghdad."

* Al-Sadr continues with program of downsizing and corporate restructuring, two things healthy companies don't typically do.

Over the space of several days in early June, Muqtada al Sadr has issued two consequential orders that will affect the future of his movement and that of Iraq. Sadr has ordered the reorganization of his infamous Mahdi Army and has forbidden the Sadrist movement from participating in the upcoming provincial elections.


The two orders show that Sadr is being forced to scale down both his political and military ambitions as the Iraqi government and Iraqi security forces continue to pacify Mahdi Army strongholds during a series of offensives that started in Basrah at the end of March, and moved through Sadr City and the wider Shia South. Operations in Maysan, a Mahdi Army bastion, are currently in progress. The Maysan operations so far resulted in the capture of 354 wanted militiamen and the discovery of hundreds of rockets, artillery rounds, RPGs and surface to air missiles and various other weapons and munitions. More than two hundred militiamen also surrendered to the Iraqi security forces, according to Ministry of Interior spokesman Abdul Karim Khalaf.

Through his decision to trim Mahdi Army, Sadr hopes to salvage some of Mahdi Army’s best trained and most loyal units, and put them under one command to operate in a secretive manner and, ostensibly, only against US targets.

Al-Sadr seems to have given up on actually winning anything, and now seems focused on merely surviving.

The domestic political effect of this amazing victory is, ironically, mostly to the benefit of one Barack Hussein Obama.

Kaus notes that a stable Iraq makes President McCain less necessary, and President Obama less risky. Abe Greenwald from Commentary agrees:

In February, John McCain said that if he could not convince the American public that the U.S. was winning the Iraq War, he would not make it into the White House. He was exactly wrong.

Believe it or not, McCain is a victim of his own success. He supported the troop surge that turned Iraq from a hopeless disaster into a critical triumph–the same troop surge that’s allowed Americans to let Iraq slip from their radar. With the war no longer perceived as a pressing calamity, what care American voters which candidate has the best Iraq plan?

Americans no longer need to be convinced that the U.S. is winning. From a McCain campaign standpoint, progress in Iraq occurred almost too quickly after that February pronouncement. There was no palpable shift in public attitudes, just a stealthy flood of change that suddenly left McCain’s invaluable contribution looking irrelevant. And Barack Obama’s camp is taking full advantage. Obama foreign policy advisor Susan Rice recently said “Sen. McCain, he’s running for commander in chief of Iraq,” and Obama “believes we need to focus on the full panoply of threats we face.” This disingenuous characterization will gain more traction in voters’ minds than the McCain camp’s many accurate attempts to expose Obama’s misjudgment and indecision on Iraq.

As unfair as that is, McCain punished for being right and firm, Obama rewarded for being wrong and pandering, there are no conservatives rooting for an Al Qaeda resurgence just to aid the Republicans in November. Liberal Democrats ought to take some notice of that, and learn from the example.

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posted by Ace at 03:46 PM

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