After his visit to Iraq, Democrat Party presidential candidate Barack Obama all but admitted the success of what's come to be called "the surge." Obama claims he met with military leaders in Iraq and spoke with rank and file soldiers who've been fighting the Iraqi insurgents and members of Al-Qaeda who refuse to acknowledge defeat.
However, military leaders are not refuting the fact that the additional troops coupled with a more aggressive war plan has resulted in continuing success. Yet, the American left -- Obama included -- refuse to give credit where credit is due. And he's being assisted by his volunteer publicists -- the mainstream news media.
It is a fact that the security situation in Iraq's northern provinces has improved. According to the commanding officer in that region, Iraqi and coalition troops will continue to pursue Al-Qaeda and other criminal groups.
During a teleconference briefing for Internet journalists and bloggers, Army Major General Mark P. Hertling, the commander of Multinational Division North said that the number of security incidents in his area of operations has dropped from more than 2,600 in June 2007 to 650 in June 2008. The numbers for July 2008 continue to show a reduction.
Hertling said Iraqi commanders will launch a major offensive against Al-Qaeda and criminal gangs in Diyala province next month. U.S. forces will launch a concurrent offensive –- Operation Iron Pursuit –- against Al-Qaeda and Iraq terrorists who are seeking sanctuary in the desert.
The success of the surge in Baghdad forced Al-Qaeda in Iraq to move out of the city mostly to the northern provinces of Diyala, Ninevah and Salah ad Din. These areas became the main battlefield as coalition, and increasingly, Iraqi forces hunted down the terrorists and killed or captured them. The cities are now "reasonably secure," Hertling said, and the Iraqi and coalition forces can shift focus to hunting down al-Qaida and its allies outside the cities. Other indicators also point to progress, Hertling said. The number of roadside bombs declined by 50 percent since February 2008 from 950 to 430.
"That's not to say we still don't have threats," the general said. Suicide vest attacks and car bombs remain a problem in Diyala and the city of Mosul. On July 24, a woman wearing a suicide vest killed eight Iraqis and wounded 30 others in Baquba. Last month another suicide bomber killed Iraqi police and recruits in the city.
The number of Iraqis killed by terrorists wearing suicide vests has been about 250. Car bombs killed a further 1,500.
"These are random, violent acts conducted by these violent terrorists and that's why we are not only continuing to go after those who do these things, but the networks that support them," the decorated general said.
Iraqi and coalition forces are continuing Operation Mother of Two Springs in Ninewah and Mosul. "We are beginning ... Operations Omens of Prosperity ... in Diyala province to begin in early August," he said. While the Iraqi army will lead the operations, coalition forces will continue to partner with Iraqi forces.
Coalition forces will go after the support zones for Al-Qaeda in Iraq. "Our message in conducting that operation is we have secured the key cities of the north and we have seen Al-Qaeda continue to be pushed into the support zones –- the areas of the desert – and we will continue to relentlessly pursue them into those areas," Hertling said.
In addition to their own operation, US forces will partner with Iraqi soldiers and police units to provide them enablers: fire support, intelligence, artillery, some logistics, engineers and some aviation, Hertling said.
Security is better in the north because of the increased number of Iraqi police and Iraqi army units, Hertling said. Still the security forces are undermanned and can use more capabilities.
"They will be bringing together in early August the elements of four Iraq army divisions, some additional Iraqi National Police and they will be linked very closely with police forces in Diyala itself," Hertling said. The Iraqi command is working closely with local Sons of Iraq groups.
This improved security has allowed a greater economic development in the four northern provinces. The markets are open, the roads are being paved and electric lines going up and being repaired. Oil exports are at an all-time high, Hertling said. "This allows for greater political interaction between the government of Iraq and the provinces as they ready for the up-coming vote," he said.
Al-Qaeda is not giving up easily, the general said. There are intimidation tactics going on throughout the northern provinces, but especially in Mosul –- Iraq's second-largest city. The terrorists have been targeting Iraqi security force, the police and Iraqi intellectuals.
"There are still attacks in Mosul, but they have been greatly reduced," Hertling said. Again, the markets are open, but more needs to be done to improve the employment situation in the region. "The combination of the Iraqi security plan has significantly reduced the attacks and the flow of insurgents into the city," he said. "What needs to happen now is the Iraqi government and the provincial governments is continuing to improve the economic conditions of the city."
And insurgents are increasingly allying with the Iraqi government. "More than 2,100 former insurgents in our area that have turned themselves in and said, 'I don't want to fight anymore, I'm tired of running, I want to be part of the political process,'" Hertling said. "More of that will happen as people see the increasing strength of the Iraqi government."
The upcoming operations will cover an area the size of New Jersey, the general said. "It's hot out there and dusty," he said. "The temperature the last time I was in Baquba was 127 degrees."
Hertling said much remains to be done in the region. "There will be continued operations as long as the Iraqi people are threatened," he said.
Message to the folks at Obama's campaign headquarters: Tell your candidate to request a meeting with Army Major General Mark P. Hertling. If necessary, ask the general to speak as if he were talking to a seven-year old. Perhaps Sen. Obama will learn the difference between victory and defeat in a war.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.