U.S. military leaders in Iraq are debating
whether they should declare victory over
Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Major strides have been taken against the organization,
but the group has not been defeated
yet. This kind of talk helps reduce the Al
Qaeda's standing in Iraq and worldwide, but a small group can still carry out
Al Qaeda in Iraq has lost
thousands of members over the past year.
The group is fragmented and has lost the support of the local populace and Al
Qaeda senior leadership. AQI is unable to gather large forces any more, mainly
because Iraqi and American military forces and Concerned Local Citizens
confront and defeat it.
Already, the group relies on
regional commands and soon those commands will fragment. This has already
occurred in Anbar Province. Areas of AQI activity remain isolated in the
country. Being isolated, AQI becomes easier to target. Militarily, AQI is
staring directly at defeat. The 2006 US Army Counterinsurgency Manual states,
"Victory is achieved when the populace consents to the government's legitimacy
and stops actively and passively supporting the insurgency." In the past month,
the Concern Local Citizens program has exploded. Starting with the Anbar
Awakening, it is now over 67,000 strong consisting of Sunnis, Shiites, and
Former Regime members.
The debate over whether to
declare victory, however, continues. First, it adds to the rhetoric of progress
in Iraq. From this rhetoric, the media-sensitive Al Qaeda will suffer further
reduced morale. At home, the debate will help direct the focus on developments
within the country.
The caveat remains; AQI is
still a viable terrorist organization. It does not take a lot of manpower or funds to conduct a major attack.
The reduction of violence allows the populace to become less vigilant. Improved
infrastructure creates more targets. If victory were hastily declared, a major
attack would greatly reduce public support. AQI has survived a number of
large-scale operations and could continue to survive.
Al Qaeda in Iraq has not been
defeated, but its end is near. Start planning your AQI Victory party now. --
Jonathan Henry firstname.lastname@example.org