By Bing West and Max Boot, Los Angeles Times
... A staggered Al Qaeda is steadily losing one redoubt after another because, in the most important shift in the war, the Sunni people turned against the terrorists and aligned with the American soldiers. Over 80,000 men (mainly Sunnis) have joined neighborhood watch groups that the U.S. calls Concerned Local Citizens. Essential in last year's battles to drive Al Qaeda out of Baghdad, the CLCs also provide Sunnis with a defense against Shiite militias.
Now, victory is within our grasp -- if only the Iraqi government could effectively reach out to Sunnis and Shiites alike who are fed up with violence and sectarian divisions.
Yet the perverse political system stymies such an outcome. In 2004, U.S. and U.N. officials pushed through an electoral process that resulted in votes for parties rather than individual candidates. This left party bosses in Baghdad free to appoint hacks who do not answer to any local constituency and face no penalty for failing to provide essential services. Water, electricity, garbage collection and job creation are in terrible shape, especially in Sunni areas, because the government is run by Shiites.
American battalion commanders have stepped in. Officers trained to attack cities, not run them, have temporarily assumed the duties of city managers, cadging resources and hounding Iraqi officials to disburse hoarded funds.
This situation cannot last indefinitely. American officers cannot take the place of the missing government of Iraq. The CLCs must be incorporated into the police. But the government headed by Nouri Maliki is moving with agonizing slowness, running the risk that civil war may be reignited...
There are some serious indications that in fact all Sunni insurgent groups and the ISI have fully reconstituted themselves, enjoyed a R&R, and are just waiting for the Shiite fight to come.
An ISI IO video released in the last few days clearly shows a formal line crosser program in place---meaning if Sunni police/army personnel cross over to the jihad side they will be treated with respect and not killed. This is a major departure from the past---capturing ISF, and executing them.
The COIN COG fight is truly not in the north, but still remains in Diyala as it has been since 2003. After how many US and joint operations into the area in 2007 and 2008 and the provence is still in no way under control. The large number of attacks on Sunni tribal leaders who are supporting the Awakening process has climbed dramatically in the last two months just as one example.
There has as well been internet chatter that the Sunni insurgency with criminal elements have successfully planted and are maintaining three large poppy fields in the many date palm and fruit orchards in the area-chatter indicated the seeds came via Barsa.
Regardless of the Iraqi governments' lack of engagement---the actual COIN fight is far from being over.