More Iraqis are losing their fear of terrorists, and it's hurting the anti-government forces. In the last three days, tips from Iraqis have led Iraqi police and troops to several terrorist hideouts. This has resulted in some spectacular gun battles, and the deaths of over 130 terrorists (and about a dozen police and soldiers.) The Iraqis have been using their growing force of SWAT teams to carry out the raids, with American forces providing backup and air cover. One raid, north of Baghdad, left 85 terrorists dead, and revealed a suicide car bomb workshop, as well as documents and weapons. The dead terrorists included men from many foreign countries (Persian Gulf states, Algeria, Morocco, Afghanistan, and the Philippines.) The government was quick to let the local media film the crime scenes and interview people. The police and army commandos have become national heroes, with their fame increasing after each successful raid. The traditional Iraqi style for such work was heavy handed, time consuming and clumsy. The SWAT teams are quick, efficient, and cause little collateral damage. This is in sharp contrast to the terrorists, who continue to set off bombs in crowded civilian areas, killing women and children in the process. The terrorists have also been hitting schools, and killing children, with mortar shells. This is probably a matter of an unskilled terrorist aiming the mortar, but the damage to the terrorists reputation is done. However, there have been deliberate killings of women and children by terrorists recently, apparently in an attempt to terrorize Iraqis into not supporting the government. This tactic isn't working, and the government is jumping all over this barbaric behavior to encourage Iraqis to stand up and turn in terrorists.
There appear to be no more than 3-4,000 terrorists and anti-government fighters out there. This was deduced when American intelligence paid close attention to terrorist operations last January, in an attempt to get a better idea of just how many terrorists, and anti-government gunmen, there actually were in the country. It was believed that the terrorists would make a maximum effort in January to derail the election, and would get all of their people out for this. Since January, there appear to have been substantial defections from anti-government groups, and the terrorists can no longer depend on Sunni Arabs to keep mum about where terrorist safe houses and workshops are set up.
American casualties continue to decline. U.S. combat deaths are down some 40 percent from February, and are only about a third of what they were in January. Casualties haven't been this low since the Spring of 2003, right after Saddam was toppled. The hard core Sunni Arabs who continued to support Saddam and the Baath Party are a broken force, with most of their leaders either captured, or negotiating deals with the government. Al Qaeda continues to see Iraq as their most important battleground. But the terrorists coming to Iraq find themselves fighting Iraqis, not Americans. The Iraqis, not happy about being the target for al Qaeda bombs, has gone after the terrorists with a vengeance. Al Qaeda is also being hammered in countries throughout the Middle East. This is not quite the sort of war Osama bin Laden had in mind, but it's what he's got, and it doesn't play well for bin Laden in the Arab media.