A leaked government document in Britain indicates that American military planners believe they can cut U.S. forces in Iraq by about 40 percent next year. Plans like this have been made before, only to be cancelled when it became clear that Iraqi security forces were not able to handle the Sunni Arab rebels and al Qaeda terrorists. But this time around, the Iraqi security forces are performing with noticeable effect. Terrorist attacks are down, and an increasing number of Sunni Arab towns are free of political and criminal gangs.
The Sunni Arab and al Qaeda gangs continue to attack, however. There are hundreds of these gangs, often containing fewer than a dozen men. The gang (or "cell" in milspeak) members are often related to each other, or are neighborhood friends. Many of these gangs easily switch between criminal and terrorist operations. The lawless attitude that supports this sort of thing is another result of decades of Saddam's rule, which was notable for its corruption, lawlessness and use of terrorism to control the population. That's all the Sunni Arabs know, and they want to remain the terrorists, not the terrorized.
The gangs continue to make attacks on police stations and army bases. These cause casualties, but with a security force of over 200,000 personnel, the attacks, while they make spectacular headlines, are not frequent enough to have much overall impact. The security personnel can do the math, and know their chances of getting hurt are low. For the gangsters and terrorists, the risk of death or injury is several times higher, but not suicidal (unless you are a suicide bomber, nearly all of whom are foreigners). The biggest danger to the terrorists and gangsters is the presence of police in their neighborhoods, or, literally, on the street where they live. Week by week, this is happening in more neighborhoods where gangsters and terrorists live. It's a slow motion battle that does not make headlines, but does determine when, and how, the "Battle for Iraq" is fought and won.