SENATORS LEVIN AND REID have introduced an amendment that would order the immediate withdrawal of American forces in Iraq--a stampede, in fact, that would require the military to pull 169,000 soldiers and their equipment out of active combat within nine months. There is no way that such a withdrawal would look like anything other than a rout and a humiliation for American arms. Such a proposal can only be supported on the premise that our efforts in Iraq to date have failed utterly and that there is no hope of protecting vital American interests in Iraq through the current strategy. That premise results from willful blindness. American and Iraqi successes in pursuing our joint and individual vital interests over the past nine months have been nothing short of staggering. The attempts of war critics to focus the discussion entirely on the failures of the Iraqi central government are disingenuous, almost dishonest, when they ignore these incredible, and in many cases, unexpected achievements.
Defeating al Qaeda in Iraq
Of America's vital interests in Iraq today, none is more important than defeating al Qaeda in Iraq. AQI, as I have argued elsewhere, is closely linked to the global al Qaeda movement, which has declared Iraq the central front in its terrorist war against America. It has stated its intention to use Iraq as a base to attack American interests and stability throughout the Middle East and beyond, and it has acted on that intention at least twice: Zarqawi used Iraq as a base from which to kill USAID official Lawrence Foley in Amman in 2002, and again to conduct a massive coordinated suicide attack on hotels in Amman in 2005. The current head of AQI, Abu Ayyub al Masri (an Egyptian), recently announced a bounty for the assassination of a Swedish cartoonist who drew a disrespectful cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed. Al Masri clearly sees himself as part of the same team as Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri if he is aping them in these outrageous gestures aimed at people far beyond the problems of his own country and of the country he seeks to take over.
AQI had safe-havens in Ramadi, Fallujah, and Karmah in Anbar. Virtually no Anbaris were willing to join the Iraqi Security Forces-a total of 1,000 recruits volunteered in Anbar in 2006.
- Ramadi has been completely cleared
- The clearing of Fallujah and Karmah is being finished now
- Violence overall in Anbar has dropped to the lowest level in years
- Reconstruction is beginning for the first time
- More than 12,000 Anbaris have volunteered to join the ISF this year, and there are more than 21,000 ISF and "concerned citizens" operating in Anbar now
AQI had seized control of Arab Jabour and other villages south of Baghdad and was using them as bases to launch massive suicide car-bomb attacks into the capital;
- Arab Jabour and other AQI bases south of Baghdad have been cleared
- Car bomb factories and facilitators have been destroyed and captured or killed
- Hundreds of local Sunni have volunteered to join "concerned citizens" groups to protect their areas against AQI-including many who had previously helped AQI
AQI had fortified strongholds in the Dora neighborhood in East Rashid in Baghdad (a key transit point for the suicide car bombs coming from the south), and in Ameriyah in West Mansour in Baghdad;
- Dora has been cleared, economic activity is picking up, hundreds of stores have reopened in a market that was entirely closed at the beginning of this year, and the neighborhood is no longer a safe transit area for car bombs;
- Ameriyah was cleared of AQI with the assistance of former insurgents who attacked AQI themselves and then sought Coalition assistance; they are now being integrated as "concerned citizens" into the ISF to keep AQI out of Ameriyah, where reconstruction is beginning
AQI owned Baqubah, the capital of Diyala Province so thoroughly that it was able to establish a massive fortified position with multiple houses rigged to explode, stacked artillery rounds deeply buried that could destroy American tanks, and safe-houses throughout the city. The situation got so bad that the governor of Diyala Province sought to move the capital from Baqubah to Muqdadiyah;