Tanned, Rested and Ready

From Holden:

A British think-tank concludes that the Iraqi insurgency has been re-organized and re-energized since the elections.

Iraq’s insurgents, described earlier this year by U.S. officials as a dwindling force, have resisted military efforts to halt their attacks and have an apparent new bombing strategy to inflict headline-grabbing casualties, according to diplomatic and academic experts.

The specialists, including one with extensive experience in Iraq, suggested that Washington misinterpreted a lull in attacks after January’s national elections as a sign that the Iraqi insurgency was dying out or relaxing its effort to force a foreign military retreat.

Instead, the experts said, the insurgents have shown patience as they regrouped, devised new strategies and repeatedly demonstrated an ability to thwart U.S.-led efforts to stabilize Iraq. The persistent campaign of attacks has demoralized the population while proving the insurgents can withstand repeated military offensives designed to defang them.

[snip]

Toby Dodge, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said the insurgents have exposed how vulnerable Iraqi police and army troops would be if U.S.-led multinational forces withdrew. As a result, U.S. and British troops, who form the largest foreign contingents, should expect to remain in Iraq indefinitely.

“I don’t think we have a viable exit strategy,” Dodge said.

[snip]

Gen. George Casey Jr., the top commander in Iraq, told CNN in late March that if all went well, “we should be able to take some fairly substantial reductions in the size of our forces” by this time next year.

“The magnitude of the task it (Iraq) faces is indicated by the fact that 155,000 U.S. troops failed to impose order during two years of occupation,” the survey said.

[snip]

Dodge said it is wrong to assume that most of the activity comes from bands of “transnational jihadists” who seek to use Iraq as a staging ground for a holy war against the West.

“Militarily, it’s a security vacuum that various groups have stepped into,” including militant nationalists, criminal gangs and those Iraqis who continue to view the U.S. military presence “as a potent focus for resentment and alienation,” he said.

Islamist militants include a large Iraqi contingent and “a smaller, much more radical and much more violent” group of transnational fighters, Dodge said.

“I would assume that the U.S. tactic – and I would hope that the new government’s tactic – would be to split the radical fringe from the mainstream fighters” and draw the latter group into a dialogue.

“But I have yet to see evidence that that is the U.S. … or the new Iraqi government’s policy,” he said, suggesting the intensified state of bloodshed could continue well into the future.