Readers will recall that this blog pointed out the reduction of violence in Al-Anbar as a indicator that U.S. withdrawal would not cause chaos and civil war, but actually shows that reducing troops levels is helping.
Since the U.S. moved a significant portion of troops from Al Anbar to Baghdad to kick off the surge in March/April. Anbar has seen a significant drop in violence and in fact we have seen Iraq police fill the gap.
And so, I was very confused when I saw this piece in the NYTimes today.
With this scary picture:
...in recent months violence has fallen sharply, a byproduct of the vehicle ban, the wider revolt by Sunni Arab tribes against militants and a new strategy by the Marines to divide Falluja into 10 tightly controlled precincts, each walled off by concrete barriers and guarded by a new armed Sunni force.
Security has improved enough that they are planning to largely withdraw from the city by next spring. But their plan hinges on the performance of the Iraqi government, which has failed to provide the Falluja police with even the most routine supplies, Marine officers say.
Thats funny, they dont mention the troop reduction, must be an oversight. Then they quote some Sgt.:
there is a good chance we would lose everything we have gained, said Sgt. Chris Turpin, an intelligence analyst with a military training team here.
But then they quote the Marine Regimental Commander:
Marine commanders emphasize there is no hard-and-fast date for leaving the city. A lot of people say that without the Americans it’s all going to collapse, said Col. Richard Simcock, the commander of Marine Regimental Combat Team Six in eastern Anbar. I’m not that negative. I’ve seen too much success here to believe that.
Some buck Sgt. versus the local Marine commander, a full bird Col. Yes, that seems equivalent. (not). Look I am usually one to value a line troops assessment over some officer, but an intelligence analyst?
Then we get this weird bit of statistics...
Violence has dropped sharply in the city, where no marines have been killed or wounded since mid-May. But deadly skirmishes have been common around the nearby village of Karma and in remote areas north of Falluja.
Twenty-five service members have been killed in Anbar Province since the beginning of July, according to Icasualties.org, making it by far the deadliest province after Baghdad.
Actually it was 17 in July not 25. Which actually was pretty good. Average KIA per month in Anbar was about 25 from 2005. There were only 4 in June and only 8 so far for August.
And then saying Anbar is 'by far the deadliest province' is really misleading. They only 2 areas that there is any real fighting going on is Anbar and Baghdad.
There are other quotes, including one from a US contractor who complains about the culture of greed(!) and also another officer who says they intend to remove more troops in the spring of next year.
This piece is pretty poorly written. The reason that violence is down (besides the vehicle ban) is the troop relocation to Baghdad. The reporters leave that out of the story. They then try to construct the premise that if more troops leave there will be more violence. But the only support for this claim is a lone sergeant. Crappy, administration supporting reporting at its best.