Monday, August 23, 2004

Doin' It For Themselves

W. Thomas Smith Jr. looks at the fighting in Najaf and what it says about the future of Sadr in a piece at NRO:

"It appears to me that in April and May we killed the best and brightest [of the Mahdi army]," 1st Lt. Brian Suits of the Army's 1st Cavalry Division in Najaf, said during a radio interview with talk-radio host Kirby Wilbur on Seattle's KVI radio, last Thursday. "What al Sadr is doing now is sending in the guys who are left behind to make a statement. He's running out of guys. The guys he has are frankly running out of motivation. There are ill-prepared and ill-trained. They are beginning to question their authority. I think they're saying "wait a minute, you told us that God was going to guide our bullets, but we haven't killed one American soldier in our area and we are dying left and right here."

There is also good news on the combat performance of at least some of the Iraqi units fighting there:

Asked if Iraqi national military forces and police are measuring up to their U.S. and British allies on the battlefield, Suits said, "I've been in combat with these guys over the last couple of days, and I was as wary as anyone else. I saw their performance in the first Gulf War, but they have since coalesced into an effective force. I'm not lying. I'm not propagandizing. I'm not delivering a message someone else said. I have confidence in them being on my left or my right. They will go forward. They will close with the enemy. They will fix him. And they will kill him. They do not retreat. They do not cower. They support each other. They drag their wounded out of the line of fire. And I have confidence that these guys will be able to defend their country because they are doing it now."

Last week Hugh Hewitt linked to a letter at The Green Side on the situation in Fallujah. And while it was not a very rosy assessment, it did offer some hope on the capabilities of the Iraqi government forces:

We also have an entire battalion of Iraqi Special Forces soldiers who have stepped forward. We have trained these guys and they are a different breed of cat altogether. Many are veterans of the Iran Iraq war and are hardened. They don't necessarily love us but they now have a bond with the Marines and operate jointly with them everyday. They shake their head at the hesitancy to resolve Fallujah and are willing to fight inside the city. It will be a very tough fight but in the end I just don't see how we can move forward as a coalition, or Iraq as a fledgling country, while this festering sore remains open.

Clearing out Fallujah and mopping up Sadr's rabble are critical steps for the future stability of the Iraqi government. Having the Iraqis do it themselves (or at least play a key role in the operations alongside US forces) will go a long way towards speeding the day when they truly will be able to control their own country.

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