Pos­i­tive indicators raise ques­tion: Who is win­ning in Iraq?

U.S. and civil­ian deaths, rocket at­tacks all down

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By David R. Sands and Sharon Behn

No one is declar­ing vic­tory, but cau­tious op­ti­mists on the U.S.-led war in Iraq sud­denly find them­selves armed with a grow­ing num­ber of indicators that the fight­ing has taken a new, more hope­ful turn.

U.S. mil­i­tary fa­tal­i­ties are down sharply, from 101 in June to 39 in Oc­to­ber. Iraqi civil­ian deaths also were down sharply, from 1,791 in Au­gust to 750 in Oc­to­ber, ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­ated Press. Mor­tar rocket at­tacks by in­sur­gents in Oc­to­ber were the low­est since Fe­bru­ary 2006, as were the num­ber of “in­di­rect fire” at­tacks on coali­tion forces.

Iraqi of­fi­cials say they plan to re­duce check­points, ease cur­fews and re­open some roads in and around Bagh­dad be­cause of the im­prov­ing se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion. Sunni Arab tribal lead­ers in west­ern An­bar prov­ince, now al­lied with the U.S. mil­i­tary, say al Qaeda is “al­most de­feated” in their on­cechaotic re­gion.

Hav­ing been burned re­peat­edly by past ex­pres­sions of op­ti­mism in the 4 1/2-year-old war, se­nior Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials

goal of a near-com­plete with­drawal by De­cem­ber 2008.

Repub­li­cans and sup­port­ers of the war ef­fort said the Democrats were in “deep de­nial.”

Sen. Joe Lieber­man, a hawk­ish Con­necti­cut in­de­pen­dent, said the war crit­ics “re­main emo­tion­ally in­vested in a nar­ra­tive of re­treat and de­feat, even as facts on the ground show that we are ad­vanc­ing and win­ning.”

The troop-surge strat­egy im­ple­mented this sum­mer by Army Gen. David H. Pe­traeus, U.S. com­man­der in Iraq, has pro­duced mea­sur­able gains.

U.S. mil­i­tary fa­tal­i­ties dropped sharply, from 101 in June to 39 in Oc­to­ber. Iraqi civil­ian deaths also de­clined markedly, from 1,791 in Au­gust to 750 in Oc­to­ber, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported. Mor­tar rocket at­tacks by in­sur­gents last month were the low­est since Fe­bru­ary 2006, as were the num­ber of “in­di­rect-fire” at­tacks on coali­tion forces.

Iraqi of­fi­cials plan to re­duce check­points, ease cur­fews and re­open some roads in and around Bagh­dad be­cause of im­prov­ing se­cu­rity. Sunni Arab tribal lead­ers in west­ern An­bar prov­ince, now al­lied with the U.S. mil­i­tary, say al Qaeda is “al­most de­feated” in their on­cechaotic re­gion.

“Democrats can’t ac­knowl­edge the fact that our troops are win­ning the war against al Qaeda in Iraq with­out ad­mit­ting that they’ve been dead wrong on the big­gest na­tional chal­lenge of our gen­er­a­tion at the same time,” said House Mi­nor­ity Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Repub­li­can.

“Had Repub­li­cans not stood their ground and pre­vented Democrats from forc­ing a re­treat — on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions, es­pe­cially in the early months of the year — who knows how firmly en­trenched al Qaeda in Iraq would be to­day and what kind of strikes they’d be plan­ning,” he said. “It’s a scary thought that could have been a re­al­ity.”

The Demo­cratic-con­trolled House passed a bill Wed­nes­day that links $50 bil­lion in emer- gency war funds to a com­plete pull­out from Iraq by De­cem­ber. Pres­i­dent Bush will veto the mea­sure, which the Se­nate is set to con­sider to­day, be­cause he says it usurps his author­ity as com­man­der in chief.

De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said the money is needed to tide troops over while law­mak­ers de­bate the rest of the $196.4 bil­lion war-funds re­quest for 2008. Oth­er­wise, money will run out for Iraq and Afghanistan op­er­a­tion and force mil­i­tar y spend­ing cuts else­where as soon as next month.

AFP / Man­del NGAN

Marine One, car­ry­ing Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush, lands on the South Lawn of the White House on Nov. 12. Mr. Bush re­turned from host­ing Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel at his Craw­ford, Teas ranch.

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