The raids in the
north, and in the Baghdad suburbs, continue to hunt down terrorist leaders and
technicians. Most terrorists are spending their time trying to avoid being
located, and grabbed, rather than setting off bombs. There are few key
terrorists left who have not been identified. You can't fight data mining, when
the Americans have so much information, collected over the last five years, on
who's been bad in Baghdad. The al Qaeda strategy of fleeing to more hospitable
areas in northern Iraq (just below the closely guarded Kurdish region) backfired.
This was taking the war to areas that had been relatively quiet, unvisited and
pro-Saddam. The new hideouts were quickly found, and Iraqi and American forces
went after them. This strategy has caused an increase in U.S. casualties, because
the battles are with the hard core now. During the first half of January, there
were about a hundred U.S. troops killed or wounded, nearly as many as for the
entire month of December. Some of it's bad luck, as in the case where six U.S. soldiers
were killed when they entered a building terrorists had rigged to explode. It's
very rare for American troops to die like this, despite the many terrorist
attempts at this kind of bombing. But no matter how careful or prepared you
are, in a combat zone, things can quickly go very wrong.
With the trends against the terrorist
groups (both Shia and Sunni), the government is making plans to impose
peacetime policing on the country. This will happen gradually, as major
criminal and terrorist gangs are cleared out. Policing in this part of the
world relies a lot on terror and intimidation. Civic spirit does not extend
much beyond family, tribe or neighborhood. Outsiders, even if it's the cops
from down the street, are not fully accepted. The police are seen as foreign.
This is largely the result of many generations of bad experiences with armed
outsiders. It's one thing to migrate to North America or Europe and just accept
the law and order atmosphere there. But back in the old country, ancient fears
make law and order something that is imposed, not sustained by a law abiding
The government is also making progress
on incorporating the remaining Sunni Arab population into the new Iraqi society
(that is dominated by the Shia majority). The Shia militias are still hanging
back, not sure what make of all this democracy stuff.