Thursday, July 19, 2007

Sorting Out the Al Qaeda Equation in Iraq

George Packer packs more punch into a single paragraph than most bloggers, myself included, do in a single week.

Yes, the inestimable Packer, longtime New Yorker writer, is blogging these days. He had this to say at his new Interesting Times blog:
"Al Qaeda in Iraq has had an outsized strategic effect compared to its numbers. By slaughtering thousands of Shia civilians, it has plunged Iraq into civil war. Killing or capturing large numbers of Al Qaeda followers may be the main achievement of the surge. (I’ve heard this from officials close to General Petraeus.) But note that this is not the same thing as successful counterinsurgency, which depends on protecting the population, not eliminating the enemy. Note also that the Iraqi civil war has moved far beyond retaliatory attacks between Sunni and Shia extremists; it affects the whole population and is no longer driven by Al Qaeda car bombs. In other words, going after Al Qaeda in Iraq is an admission that we can’t prevail in the larger war. Finally, note the Administration’s argument for elevating Al Qaeda in Iraq to No. 1: We have to fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here. But, as [Fred] Kaplan points out, the new intelligence estimate says that the opposite is true."
Meanwhile, W. Patrick Lang, a former military spook and Green Beret, has further thoughts here.

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