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Friday, January 18, 2008

The Difference A Year Has Made in Iraq

The military has provided data to USA Today which USA Today says gives one of the "clearest snapshots" yet of the difference one year has made in Baghdad.

"Retain" and "Control" are two of the categories the military uses for their four-tier security rating system.

"Control" neighborhoods are secure and depend on U.S. and Iraqi Military forces to keep peace and "Retain" are areas where only Iraqi police and security forces are needed.

Last year at this time, before General Petraeus and our troops had implemented the counterinsurgency strategies being used today, 37 out of 474 neighborhoods were in the "retain" and "control" categories.

Today the picture is vastly different and 356 out of 474 neighborhoods are in the "retain" and "control" categories. The remaining areas have fewer security forces but as the USA Today points out, they are not necessarily violent areas.

Then we have the DoD News Briefing with Lt. Gen. Odierno from Iraq, the commanding general of Multinational Corps Iraq, where Gen. Odierno gives an overview of what is happening across Iraq and then takes questions from reporters.

His overview included slides, maps and graphs as he explained the challenges that faced our military, coalition and Iraqi security forces and the operations used to overcome those challenges, such as Operation Phantom Thunder,a corps-level offensive operation focused on the Baghdad Belts to defeat al Qaeda and extremists, deny enemy sanctuary, and interdict their command and control and logistics capabilities.

With Operation Phantom Thunder showing progress and success, he goes on to tell of following up on that success with Operation Phantom Strike, in August, to intensify pursuit of al Qaeda and extremists.

Ten days ago, Multinational Corps-Iraq initiated Operation Phantom Phoenix to continue our relentless pursuit of extremists and to exploit the progress achieved over the past seven months. Phantom Phoenix is an open-ended offensive operation employing coalition and Iraqi conventional forces as well as our Special Operation Forces. As shown on the chart, it is focused at the division and brigade level to further degrade al Qaeda in Iraq and other extremists in those areas where they are trying to re-establish support zones and command nodes. Over the coming weeks, you will hear my commanders talk to you about operations like Iron Harvest, Marne Thunderbolt and what they are doing in their operating environments in support of Phantom Phoenix.

Without going into details of timing and locations, I will tell you that we have repositioned over two brigades-worth of combat power to hunt down al Qaeda, and that it has already made a significant impact. We were able to do this without giving up any previously gained ground because of the improved capacity of Iraqi security forces and concerned local citizens.

Then General Odierno highlights what he considers to be a major Iraqi success early in the operation, something he says he would not have thought possible one year ago, when the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Iraqi Army Division was deployed from Anbar province to Diyala province to support combat operations in the Diyala River Valley.

An Iraqi decision, implemented solely by the Iraqi's and within 36 hours "uncovered two sizable caches, gathered significant intelligence and aggressively hunted down al Qaeda in tough terrain and demanding climatic conditions."

General Odierno finishes by summarizing the security trends for 2007, with more charts and slides and then he opens it up for questions from the reporters.

Read the whole thing.

With news like this, cautious projections and a continuation of success, it is no wonder that the anti-war factions, like MoveOn and Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, have retreated in defeat to recalculate their own plans in their war against victory and most importantly, it has been security gains such as those that General Odierno discussed at his press briefing that has led to the Iraqi politicians having the stability and security that has made it possible for them to pass one of the critical benchmarks set out by our congress for them, the De-baathification reform that they recently passed.

Counterinsurgency strategies, more boots on the ground to implement those strategies, a new commander and one year and a whole lot of good news.

What a difference a year can make.