Now that the "troop surge" has been a success, Gen. David Petraeus is beginning the second phase of his Iraq plan:
The first phase of the new strategy unfolded over five months--between the president's announcement of the "surge" on January 10 and the arrival of the last of the five additional Army brigades and Marine elements in early June (though critical enablers for those combat forces have only just arrived). As the new units entered Iraq, commanders began pushing forces already in the theater forward from their operating bases into outposts in key neighborhoods of Baghdad and elsewhere. The purpose of these movements was to establish positions within those key neighborhoods and to develop intelligence about the enemy and relationships of trust with the local communities.
Also during this first phase, additional Iraqi security forces were deployed to Baghdad in accordance with a plan developed jointly by the U.S. and Iraqi military commands. All of the requested units were provided. The Iraqi military has just completed its second rotation of units into Baghdad; as before, all of the designated units arrived, and they were generally closer to being fully manned than in the first rotation.
The new U.S. troops have increased the available combat power in Iraq by about 40 percent, from 15 brigades to the equivalent of 21 brigades. Generals Petraeus and Odierno allocated only two of the additional Army brigades to the capital. The other three Army brigades and the equivalent of a Marine regiment they deployed in the surrounding areas, known as the "Baghdad belt." There, under the guise of Operation Phantom Thunder, they are now working to disrupt the car-bomb and suicide-bomb networks that have been supporting al Qaeda's counter-surge since January.
But this second phase is designed primarily to support the clearing and holding operations in Baghdad itself, which will continue for many months. It is those operations that are meant to bring lasting security to Iraq's capital and thus create the space for political progress.
In short, it's too soon to be calling Iraq a failure. But that won't stop the Party of the Donkey or weak-kneed Republicans.