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Give War a Chance

2:31 PM, Mar 28, 2008 • By BILL ROGGIO
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The Iraqi military launched Operation Knights' Assault against the Mahdi Army and other Iranian-backed Shia terrorist groups in Basra three days ago, and the media is quick to call the operation a failure. The New York Times has declared the military offensive in Basra has "stalled" just two days after the operation began, with the Mahdi Army controlling some neighborhoods and Iraqi armored vehicles are unable to enter some neighborhoods as the streets are too narrow.

The Times Online is claiming the Mahdi Army has overrun checkpoints throughout Baghdad, some without a fight. The Multinational Division Baghdad categorically denied this in a follow-up question to THE WEEKLY STANDARD earlier this morning.

"All checkpoints and ISF [Iraqi security forces] buildings are in ISF and/or Coalition control. No checkpoint is in enemy control," said Lieutenant Colonel Steve Stover, the Public Affairs Officer for the 4th Infantry Division and Multinational Division Baghdad. "There were several cases where the ISF needed our assistance (and more often than not--did not) and either CF 9Coalition forces ground or air responded and either reinforced or took back in a couple occasions the CP or IP (Iraqi Police) building--none of that happened today."

Keep in mind how the newspapers and television were quick to declare the initial invasion in Iraq a quagmire as a sandstorm slowed the U.S. assault force in southern Iraq for several days. Also remember the media was quick to declare the surge a failure in its opening month in February 2007, despite the fact that sufficient forces would not be in place until June 2007.

Military operations take time to develop, and, as the saying goes, the enemy also gets a vote. The Mahdi Army has been entrenched in these neighborhoods in Baghdad and Basra, so it is natural that it will take time to root out the militias in these areas. This operation needs to develop before it can be called a success or failure, and that will take weeks or even months.

One thing to keep in mind is Muqtada al Sadr, the leader of the Mahdi Army, is pressing for an end to the fighting. If Sadr's Mahdi Army was doing so well, why would he call for an end to the fighting? Another item to consider is that U.S. troops have yet to enter the fighting in full force. Other than some skirmishes in Baghdad--the U.S. has killed at least 60 Mahdi Army fighters in Baghdad the past three days--support in Basra has been limited to air, logistical, and special operations support. The U.S. military has yet to fully weigh in as it is letting the Iraqi Army take the lead in Basrah. Sadr knows this.