Iraqi Troops Continue To Progress

As George Bush has said: “Our strategy can be summed up this way: As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.”

Put another way, our goal is to help the Iraqis get strong enough to police their own country. Once that happens, most of our troops will be able to come home. A few may stay put in military bases to make sure Iraq’s neighbors don’t get any funny ideas, but as long as our troops are not keeping the peace on the streets, American casualties should drop down to almost nothing.

That doesn’t mean the violence will end, but if there’s a strong Iraqi military and police force, the terrorists will never be able to takeover the country. Suicide bombers and car bombs can put people in the morgue, but they won’t ever win a war or win over the population.

So, that’s why it’s so vitally important for Iraq to be able to handle its own internal security. Once that day comes, it means lasting liberty for the Iraqis, welcome home celebrations for Coalition troops, and the door closing permanently on Al-Qaeda’s hopes of victory in Iraq.

Since that’s the case, this column from the Wall Street Journal was welcome news. It shows that Iraqi troops are progressing, in fact, so much so that it makes predictions that significant numbers of our troops will be coming home in the first half of next year seem very plausible.

From the WSJ:

“There are good reasons to believe the current operation in Tal Afar–a largely Turkoman city near the Syrian border–will be a model of things to come. Previous attempts to clean the terrorists out of Tal Afar and other cities in northern and western Iraq have too often seen the insurgents melt away only to return when the U.S. spearhead withdrew. This time Iraqis are leading the fight and, most important, many will stay so the people of Tal Afar can begin to believe they can live free of terrorist intimidation.

A force of about 5,000 Iraqis and 3,800 Americans killed at least 157 terrorists, detained 440 suspects, and discovered 34 weapons caches, all while suffering minimal casualties. “The terrorists are losing their morale. They couldn’t resist as they did in Fallujah,” Iraqi President Jalal Talabani told us in an interview last week in New York, where he was attending the United Nations General Assembly.

The Tal Afar operation calls into question the contention of war critics like Senator Joe Biden that there are only a handful of Iraqi troops capable of meaningful operations. In fact, U.S. commanders classify about 40 battalions–roughly 750 soldiers in each–as “fully independent” or able to fight “in the lead.”

…Similar Iraqi-led clean-and-garrison operations might well be performed in other problematic cities like Ramadi. This is a classic form of anti-insurgency warfare that has the potential to narrow the range of operations for the terrorists. President Talabani told us that about 50,000-60,000 Iraqi troops can be considered “well trained,” and the number is growing. They will eventually replace Americans, though we hope not before more Tal Afar operations can be undertaken.”

It’s nice to see Iraqi forces outnumbering American troops during a big operation. And there are 30,000 Iraqi troops that are “fully independent” or capable of “fighting the lead?” There are 50,000-60,000 troops that are “well trained?” Given that we essentially started from scratch, the Iraqis have come a long way.

On top of those numbers, keep in mind that there are “178,000 trained and equipped (Iraqi) forces” and the goal, which is achievable because we now have many more Iraqis capable of training other Iraqis, is “to have 275,000 Iraqi policemen and soldiers trained and equipped and organized into effective units” by June of next year.

The numbers aren’t where they need to be yet, but not only are we getting the Iraqis whipped into shape, our efforts seem to be picking up steam on the way. By June of next year, don’t surprised if a lot of the people making Vietnam comparisons today are claiming that they knew it would work all along…

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