Some worrisome signs on Iraq

DAVE CLARK/AFP/Getty Images There’s little question the U.S. military’s switch to a counterinsurgency approach and its embrace of former Iraqi insurgents (a.k.a. “Concerned Citizens,” “Awakenings,” or “Salvation Councils”) has helped tamp down the violence in Anbar Province and Baghdad and isolate al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. But not all is gumdrops and lollipops. Back in September, ...

596546_080210_iraq2.jpg
596546_080210_iraq2.jpg

DAVE CLARK/AFP/Getty Images

There's little question the U.S. military's switch to a counterinsurgency approach and its embrace of former Iraqi insurgents (a.k.a. "Concerned Citizens," "Awakenings," or "Salvation Councils") has helped tamp down the violence in Anbar Province and Baghdad and isolate al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. But not all is gumdrops and lollipops. Back in September, FP contributors Colin Kahl and Shawn Brimley warned that while this strategy can work, it brings with it significant risks if the former insurgents aren't properly integrated into the Iraqi state. And increasingly, close observers of Iraq have been raising some important warning signs on this front. Here's Marc Lynch sounding the alarm about recent developments in Anbar:

What with this and the Anbar Salvation Council threatening to take up arms against the elected council and refusing to fly the new Iraqi flag and dismissing the entire Parliament as illegitimate and Awakenings leaders declaring that no Iraqi police are allowed in their territory and clashing with them when they do and blaming Shi'ite militias (and not al-Qaeda) for the wave of attacks against them and fighting over territory and threatening to quit if they aren't paid, it really is hard to see why anybody would think that there might be anything troublesome about the relationship between the Awakenings and the Iraqi "state". Nothing to see here but great big gobs of victory folks, please move along.

DAVE CLARK/AFP/Getty Images

There’s little question the U.S. military’s switch to a counterinsurgency approach and its embrace of former Iraqi insurgents (a.k.a. “Concerned Citizens,” “Awakenings,” or “Salvation Councils”) has helped tamp down the violence in Anbar Province and Baghdad and isolate al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. But not all is gumdrops and lollipops. Back in September, FP contributors Colin Kahl and Shawn Brimley warned that while this strategy can work, it brings with it significant risks if the former insurgents aren’t properly integrated into the Iraqi state. And increasingly, close observers of Iraq have been raising some important warning signs on this front. Here’s Marc Lynch sounding the alarm about recent developments in Anbar:

What with this and the Anbar Salvation Council threatening to take up arms against the elected council and refusing to fly the new Iraqi flag and dismissing the entire Parliament as illegitimate and Awakenings leaders declaring that no Iraqi police are allowed in their territory and clashing with them when they do and blaming Shi’ite militias (and not al-Qaeda) for the wave of attacks against them and fighting over territory and threatening to quit if they aren’t paid, it really is hard to see why anybody would think that there might be anything troublesome about the relationship between the Awakenings and the Iraqi “state”. Nothing to see here but great big gobs of victory folks, please move along.

There are indeed worrisome trends. Military contractor deaths, for instance, rose 17 percent in 2007. Official U.S. casualities haven’t spiked — yet. According to Iraq Coalition Casualties, a Web site that tracks deaths in Iraq, U.S. troop deaths reached 40 in January, a few ticks up from 23 in December. Sixteen U.S. soldiers and marines have died so far in February, indicating another small increase. If this rate holds, we could hit 4,000 deaths by early March, just in time for the five-year anniversary of the invasion. Deaths among Iraqi security forces and civilians have held roughly constant for the past three months, though February is on pace to be the worst month since August 2007. Stay tuned.

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