Get Your Humongous Head To Ramadi

From Holden:

On Wednesday Pony Blow explained that when Dick Cheney said the insurgency in Iraq was in its “last throes” he was really talking about al Qaeda in Iraq, not the insurgency as a whole, and he went on to explain that al Qaeda is no longer a problem in Iraq so Cheney was right.

Q Tony, can I ask you about Iraq? It was a year ago today that Vice President Cheney said that the insurgency there was in its last throes, and now we have this latest Pentagon assessment saying that the insurgency is going to remain steady, the strength will remain steady through the rest of this year. How does the administration reconcile —

MR. SNOW: Well, there was a time when — and I don’t want to try to back-interpret what the Vice President said, but let me just offer at least one view on it, which is, for a long time, when we talked about insurgency — that is, “we,” generally, Americans — we thought of al Qaeda. And I think it’s pretty safe to say that the al Qaeda and the foreign fighters remnant presence in Iraq has been dramatically reduced, such that, at least, in the opinions of people there, it is no longer the major factor when it comes to what’s going on. Now you do have former members of the Saddam regime and you do have Iraqi citizens who are in entrenched opposition and are using terror and other tactics to try to derail democracy.

Again, I don’t want to try to back-interpret what the Vice President said. But I do think that one of the significant changes from the weeks and months after the end of major combat activities in Iraq and today is that that al Qaeda presence has been dramatically, very dramatically reduced — but it does mean that we still do have opposition within former elements. [emphasis added]

Maybe Pony should visit Ramadi.

Al Qaeda militants have gained ground in Ramadi and the 1,500 extra U.S. troops brought to Iraq to help fight them will be used to try to break their grip on the town, the U.S. military said on Thursday.

“We are very concerned about Ramadi. The situation in Ramadi is very serious,” chief U.S. military spokesman Major General William Caldwell told a news conference.

[snip]

“Al Qaeda militants have increased their presence. The extra troops have been brought in to facilitate the movement of other troops and deal with al Qaeda,” said military spokesman Colonel Nelson McCouch.

He said the troops would be based in Ramadi, which has emerged as the biggest hotspot in Iraq after a major U.S. military offensive crushed al Qaeda militants and insurgents in 2004 in nearby Falluja, a former rebel bastion.

Asked if the situation in Ramadi was similar to that in Falluja before the assault, when residents said al Qaeda militants ruled the streets, McCouch said:

“They are different. We have a presence and positions in Ramadi. In Falluja, we were trying to establish positions.”

[snip]

Al Qaeda-allied militants, led among others by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and nationalists loyal to Saddam Hussein’s banned Baath party have found refuge in the desert wastes of Anbar since the U.S. invasion three years ago.

They often conduct bold operations in Ramadi, frequently attacking the building housing the governorate.