The Washington Post reports that the Pentagon will begin deploying 35,000 new troops to Iraq in August as replacement forces in order to sustain the increase of U.S. troops there until the end of the year. Moreover, according to the Post, U.S. commanders in Iraq are increasingly convinced that the troop surge will need to last into the spring of 2008.
The Post also provides its analysis of the situation on the ground. It reports that great progress has occurred in Anbar province, where violence has dropped dramatically due to cooperation between local tribes and U.S. forces. As a result, the U.S. may be able to reduce its presence there soon. This is the kind of success that, if replicated elsewhere (especially in Baghdad), could turn the tide and make the war politically sustainable here at home.
However, results elsewhere are decidedly more mixed. In Baghdad, according to the Post, we have succeeded in halting Shia efforts to purge Sunnis from their neighborhoods. For the most part, Shia expansion appears to be “frozen where it is.” Moreover, sectarian killing is down. These are significant achievements — our efforts are materially improving the situation in Baghdad. However, as we feared, insurgent attacks and bombings do not seem to have subsided appreciably.
It is true that the surge is not complete. But it sounds like the additional forces will concentrate on the outskirts of Baghdad. Though it’s possible that progress there will bring benefits to Baghdad, it seems at least as likely that what we’re seeing now in Baghdad is roughly what we will get during the remainder of the year.
The question becomes whether this sort of progress — an end to Shia expansion, significant reductions in sectarian violence, but continued high levels of terrorist attacks and the continued loss of 50 to 100 American lives per month — will be sufficient to make the war politically sustainable in the U.S. The answer, I believe, is no. Under the scenario I’ve sketched (which, to be sure, cannot be said at this point to be the only possible outcome), the war will continue to lose support and, except in very red states, so will Republicans who still back it.
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