November 9, 2007:
American military commanders
believe al Qaeda has been driven from Baghdad, and the only areas still
controlled by terrorists are those occupied by Shia militias. These amount to
about 13 percent of the city area, and pacifying them will be a political, more
than a military, problem. The Shia militias, or rather their leaders, also
control several government ministries. The militias are also heavily involved
in several criminal activities, especially black market gasoline. There are
still Sunni Arab criminal gangs, but they are out of political terrorism now,
and keeping their heads down. The Sunni Arab community in Baghdad is ready to
accept any political deal they can get from the government. Outside Baghdad,
Sunni Arab groups are more feisty, although at the moment, few of them support
al Qaeda. Many Sunni Arabs outside Baghdad still back terrorism against foreign
troops. Very few Sunni Arabs still believe they can regain control of the
government, and most are not sure they will be able to remain in the country.
At this point, U.S. troops are mostly concerned with controlling the Shia militias.
These groups still have it in for Sunni Arabs. While political murders are down
80 percent (of their peak last year, when over 3,000 civilians were being
killed a month), most Shia would still like to see all the Sunni Arabs gone.
Foreign terrorists are still getting into the
country, and al Qaeda is still operating in the Baghdad suburbs and near the
border of the northern Iraq Kurdish region. The most dangerous terrorists are
still the Sunni Arab ones, although Shia militias are attacking U.S. troops as
well. But roadside bomb use is down 70 percent, and the people building and
deploying these weapons are on the defensive.
Peace won't arrive until the police are able to
assert themselves throughout the country. That's not impossible. The Kurdish
areas have been at peace for years, and many areas in the Shia south have seen
little or no terrorism. However, many rural Sunni Arab areas have been without
police since 2003. Recruiting and training will take years. Meanwhile, tribal
militias or other informal security units are all that's available. These are
subject to corruption, or control by a local warlord or big shot.
Corruption, and organized crime, remain a
nationwide problem, even in the Kurdish north. Solving these problems is a long
term effort. In particular, corruption is so ingrained that it may take
generations to get under control. Where there is a lot of corruption, there is
always potential for unrest.