Austin Bay has an interesting piece on what is going on in Baghdad besides adding extra troops:
Adding 20,000 troops to Iraq in a five- to six-month window is a significant increase but in and of itself not decisive, and certainly not a “new strategy.”
The relentless, focused targeting of Shia and Sunni extremist organizations is a far more important feature of what Iraqis are calling “the new security plan” than more U.S. troops. The coalition’s effort to better integrate the economic and political development “lines of operation” with security operations could have greater long-term effects.
Everyone seems to be talking about the troop numbers, but that’s actually only one part of this new plan. It’s quite a bit more comprehensive than that, and it finally does a number of things that should have been done a long time ago. The fact that it has caused Moqtada al-Sadr to run to Iran with his tail tucked between his legs demonstrates that it’s already changing the status quo in Iraq. Al-Sadr wouldn’t have run if he didn’t think it were absolutely necessary — and marginalizing al-Sadr’s thugs is the first step towards restoring some order in Baghdad.
It’s going to be a while before we get an idea how well things are working, although there are some encouraging signs already in terms of al-Sadr leaving and many Baghdadis coming back into the city. What needs to happen is for the key elements of the “insurgency” to be removed. We can’t stop everyone who is engaging in violence, but we can take out the weapons dealers, the ringleaders, and the financiers who keep the death squads running.
Our biggest problem is time. A successful counterinsurgency takes years to develop and complete, but it is clear that the political will in Washington is weak. We have to get the Iraqis into the best position we can before we can think about leaving, and the progress has been unacceptably slow. While the British are in a position where withdrawal is possible — the Shi’ite south doesn’t have the sectarian violence problems of Baghdad nor the al-Qaeda infestation of al-Anbar, the Sunni Triangle remains dangerous.
We’re developing a better strategy, but it remains to be seen whether we can make enough of a difference before the political will in Washington runs out. We must ensure that Iraq does not descend into abject chaos and destabilize the rest of the region, but we don’t have the luxury of time in order in doing it. The enemies of a free Iraq know that their best, if not only, chance of winning is to run out the clock — which is why it is so crucial we ensure that the Iraqis can fight back once we leave.