Sept. 16th marks a great day in the Iraq combat theater of operations. General David Petraeus handed over command to his stalwart deputy, General Ray Odierno.
Petraeus will move up to take over the U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM.
Too bad the trillion dollar, roller coaster, financial malfeasance has over shadowed this victorious moment at the end of a protracted conflict. Not that the defeat-o-crats will complain. Of course.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq is not finished, as constant suicide bomb attacks attest; but it is no longer an existential menace. Its losses since April are reported on jihadist networks to be double its casualties in the four years from 2003 to 2007 - not least because of the Sunni “Awakening” against the nihilistic brutality of al-Qaeda's methods.
Anbar, the “unwinnable” western province that was the heartland of the bloody Sunni insurgency and also of al-Qaeda in Iraq, is in consequence now so peaceable that on September 1 it became the 11th of Iraq's 18 provinces to be handed from American to Iraqi military control.
In the south, Basra has been reclaimed from Shia militia rule (despite rather than because of Britain's inadequate and in part shameful contribution), as, for now, has the militantly Shia Sadr City area of Baghdad. Countrywide, daily attacks have fallen from around 180 last year to around 25, and there has been a drop of almost 80 per cent in civilian deaths. Street markets, even the odd swimming pool, have reopened. Despite still-dysfunctional electricity and water supplies and inefficient and corrupt public administration, the economy is picking up.
The surge has ended: the additional units are out of Iraq. The gains are holding, with monthly US military fatalities dramatically down, from a peak of 126 as the surge got under way to 18 last month. They are holding because the surge involved much more than extra US troops.
Ralph Peters over at FPM has a great tribute to the General with Petraeus Victorious.