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U.S. Claims Success in Iraq Despite Onslaught
But Cordesman, the Washington-based analyst, said there was evidence that more foreign volunteers were arriving and more Iraqis were joining the insurgency. U.S. officials claim to have eliminated a number of insurgent leaders, he said, but the insurgency doesn't seem to have slowed.
"On a day-to-day basis, the overall level of security is obviously low. We can't secure the airport road, can't stop the incoming into the Green Zone, can't stop the killings and kidnappings," Cordesman said.
U.S. and Iraqi forces offer scant protection to any Iraqis who stand up to Zarqawi's fighters. Insurgents -- through intimidation rather than popularity -- still have the upper hand in cities and towns where the U.S. and Iraqi military presence is weak and transient. In Anbar, a tribe near Qaim that vowed to fight Zarqawi was left this month battered and holed up in its village, calling for U.S. help.
"Is there enough force here right now to secure this area permanently? No. Are there opportunities for the enemy in other areas within our region? Yes," said Col. H.R. McMaster, commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Tall Afar.
For Zarqawi's purposes, U.S. claims of denying insurgents a lasting haven probably mean little, Cordesman said. "Being fluid, dynamic, scattered, broken out into cells seems to be the way any effective insurgency wins, or certainly endures," he said.
A Multifaceted Solution
Since the start of the war, the U.S. military appears to have been limited by having too few troops to block either the emergence or the growth of the insurgency. Last week, Lynch advised what he called "combat patience" regarding plans to target the insurgents' Euphrates River strongholds in western Anbar. U.S. ground commanders there have said thousands more American forces are needed to secure towns and close the Syrian border.
Cordesman and other analysts said that ultimately, a bulked-up U.S. presence in any one area, with troops who speak no Arabic and have comparatively little expertise in counterinsurgency, risks spurring new fighters to join the insurgency at least as fast as old ones are eliminated.
The answer, military officials and analysts say, lies in something the U.S. and Iraqi governments haven't been able to achieve: the creation of a truly national army that includes Sunni Arabs for deployment into Anbar and other hot spots, and of a national government that gives the Sunni minority back a share of political power.
"You can't win in Anbar, Baghdad or anywhere else except politically," Cordesman said.