MORE GOOD NEWS FROM THE QUAGMIRE:
** 75% of Baghdad secure- up from 8% last year
** UN announces political and economic progress
** 5 US Brigades will return home by July (Equal to Surge Number)
** 5 More US Brigades may come home by end of 2008
** Iraqi security plan to take control of all 18 provinces by end of 2008
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Students draw peace messages at their schoolyard in Falluja, 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad, January 15, 2008. Picture taken January 15, 2008. (REUTERS/Mohanned Faisal)
USA Today is reporting today on the incredible gains in Baghdad this past year since the start of the Bush troop surge.
This follows up the good news yesterday on economic and political progress in Iraq and the announcement that 5 Brigades would return back home in victory by July.
USA Today reported:
About 75% of Baghdad’s neighborhoods are now secure, a dramatic increase from 8% a year ago when President Bush ordered more troops to the capital, U.S. military figures show.
The military classifies 356 of Baghdad’s 474 neighborhoods in the “control” or “retain” category of its four-tier security rating system, meaning enemy activity in those areas has been mostly eliminated and normal economic activity is resuming.
The data given by the military to USA TODAY provide one of the clearest snapshots yet of how security has improved in Baghdad since roughly 30,000 additional American troops arrived in Iraq last year.
U.S. commanders caution that the gains are still fragile, but at the moment U.S. and Iraqi forces “basically own the streets,” said Col. Ricky Gibbs, a brigade commander in southern Baghdad.
The fight to control Baghdad is the centerpiece of the counterinsurgency strategy launched a year ago by Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. The plan, popularly known as the “surge,” seeks to reduce sectarian and other violence by moving troops off large bases and into dangerous neighborhoods to protect civilians.
The 310 neighborhoods in the “control” category are secure, but depend on U.S. and Iraqi military forces to maintain the peace. The 46 areas in the “retain” category have reached a level where Iraqi police and security forces can maintain order, a more permanent fix. The remaining areas have fewer security forces based there, though they are not necessarily violent.
Earlier today Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal posted a current map of Al Qaeda areas of operation in Iraq:
Bill reports on the shrinking areas of Iraq where the terrorists are able to carry out their plans:
Al Qaeda in Iraq’s network has been significantly degraded, but is still a threat. Al Qaeda remains active in regions near Miqdadiyah, Mosul, Hawijah, Samarra, and southeast of Baghdad in the Arab Jabour region. “Although the group remains a dangerous threat, its capabilities have been diminished,” said Odierno. “Al Qaeda has been pushed out of urban centers like Baghdad, Ramadi, Fallujah and Baqubah, and forced into isolated rural areas. Many of their top leaders have been eliminated, and finding qualified replacements is increasingly difficult for them.” Multinational Forces Iraq also estimates it has significantly degraded al Qaeda’s ability to fund operations by dismantling its financier networks and leaders.
Operation Phantom Phoenix, the current nationwide operation targeting al Qaeda’s remaining safe havens, was launched on Jan. 8. Iraqi and US forces have captured or killed 121 al Qaeda fighters, wounded 14, and detained an additional 1023 suspects. Al Qaeda’s leadership has been hit hard during the operation, with 92 high values targets either killed or captured.
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This is a far cry from the map of Al-Qaeda operations captured last year by multinational forces:
The Jawa Report posted this map last year: “Above is a map which bears the flag (upper right corner) of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), al Qaeda’s front group, captured by U.S. troops near Samara last month. It shows what the ISI claims is al Qaeda contolled territory. This is what al Qaida claims, not what the Administration claims.”