Bill Roggio has more on this weekend’s fighting in the Iraqi city of Najaf, home to the Shrine of the Imam Ali, one of the holiest sites in Shi’ite Islam. Over 300 Sunni terrorists and Shi’ite cultists were killed in the battle. 2 US and 8 Iraqi soldiers and police died in the fighting.
This battle is interesting, as it involves both Sunni insurgents and Shi’ite militias fighting in a coordinated effort. The conventional narrative is that these groups are at odds with each other, but the reality is that al-Qaeda has every interest in promoting more violence in Iraq, regardless of who ends up doing the fighting. It seems likely that al-Qaeda forces are working with Shi’ite groups to divide and conquer Iraq on the theory that the enemy of one’s enemy is at the very least a temporary ally.
Roggio also notes that the combined US/Iraqi force managed to defeat a large, coordinated, and heavily-armed force with a minimum of casualties. Killed in the fighting was the leader of a fourth major Shi’ite militia, the Armies of Heaven. Ahmed Hassani al-Yemeni, who claimed to be the Imam Mahdi, was killed in the attack. It would seem that particular militia is likely to survive as an independent body for much longer now that their leader has been killed.
The political reality in Washington and the reality on the ground in Iraq seem to be wildly divergent as the ongoing counterinsurgency fighting continues to wear down the terrorists in Iraq. Reports are indicating that years of continuous fighting are taking their toll on the “insurgency” in Iraq as one-sided engagements like the one this weekend continue to be the norm.
Counterinsurgency fighting is long, difficult work. However, so long as the US and coalition forces don’t cede the battlefield to the enemy, there is no reason to believe that Iraq is damned. It is all about continuing to keep the pressure up — and now that our soldiers know that reinforcements are on the way, that makes things easier on them. Iraq is quite winnable, but it requires our political will to be the equal of the courage of our fighting men and women. This battle in Najaf may have prevented a massive attack against the upcoming Ashura festival and further kept the enemy from achieving their goals of destabilizing and conquering Iraq.