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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Iraq War Updates

Through a series of weekly updates from the Institute for the Study of War(ISW), ISW will keep you informed about vital defense issues, including the ongoing mission in Iraq.

Following a two week visit to Iraq that spanned the entire country, ISW President Kimberly Kagan co-authored a Wall Street Journal Opinion piece that considers the "New Reality in Iraq".

The New Reality in Iraq (The Wall Street Journal)
July 16, 2008
Kimberly Kagan

By Frederick W. Kagan, Kimberly Kagan, and Jack Keane

All of the most important objectives of the surge have been accomplished in Iraq. The sectarian civil war is ended; al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has been dealt a devastating blow; and the Sadrist militia and other Iranian-backed militant groups have been disrupted.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government has accomplished almost all of the legislative benchmarks set by the U.S. Congress and the Bush administration. More important, it is gaining wider legitimacy among the population.

The attention of Iraqis across the country is focused on the upcoming provincial elections, which will be a pivotal moment in Iraq's development.
The result is that we have an extraordinary – but fleeting – opportunity to advance America's security and the stability of a vital region of the world.

This week, Kimberly also wrote a cover story for the Weekly Standard on "The Future of Iraq" (below)

The article describes her visit to the headquarters of a small,secular political party preparing for Iraq's upcoming provincial elections, and the competition among Iraq's leading political parties in advance of this potentially watershed event.

The security situation in Iraq has improved over the last several months as the Iraqi Security Forces, supported by the Coalition, have gained control of the former militia safe-havens in Sadr City, Basra,and Amarah. News reports state that many leaders of the Iranian-backed Special Groups have returned to Iran.

Likewise, many formerly violent militia leaders and fighters have dispersed or gone to ground. The lingering networks of the Special Groups nevertheless remain a serious, potential threat to the security of Iraq and the stability of its government. ISW's interactive map provides a great visual understanding of the level of activity in the country by and againstthe Iranian backed Special Groups.

The Future of Iraq (The Weekly Standard)
July 21, 2008
Kimberly Kagan

I have made four trips to Iraq since May 2007. I have walked through markets in Baghdad escorted by U.S. soldiers, visited the outposts where they live with their Iraqi army partners, talked with school children playing soccer in the street, seen newly renovated housing in war-torn neighborhoods, and eaten in the homes of local and tribal leaders who have helped our soldiers fight Al Qaeda in Iraq.

This morning, a weekday in July 2008, I am doing something I have never done before: visiting the headquarters of a small Iraqi political party to learn about its campaign for the upcoming provincial and national elections.
The visit was not on the original itinerary of the group of military analysts with whom I am traveling. The party's leader, a member of parliament whom we met several days ago, invited us to his headquarters, our schedule permitting. We have cancelled a morning's worth of meetings in order to see something new.

Finally, ISW has also updated the Iraq Statistics Reference for July.

The updated statistics show a significant drop in the number of attacks against Iraqi infrastructure, bombs (IEDs and Mincs), sniper and other small arms attacks, and mortar and rocket attacks. Since May 2007, the total number of attacks has dropped from nearly 1600 to just over 200. The new statistics also show the level of ethno-sectarian violence in Baghdad, as well as the number of weapon caches found andcleared by Coalition Forces.

Iraq Statistics Reference - July 2008
For updated information on trends of insurgent organization and activity, cache discoveries, casualty rates and trends of violence, including graphs and charts released by MNF-I and MNC-I, access the July 2008 Iraq Statistics Reference here.

Map of Special Groups Activity in Iraq

Updated as of July 11, 2008, this document maps Multi-National Force-Iraq press releases on activity by and against Special Groups. The press releases are plotted by the location of the incident in reverse chronological order. Efforts have been made to plot the data points with as much accuracy as possible. Approximate placemarks are noted in the description.

Incidents with unspecified locations in Baghdad are placed in Sadr City, Baghdad, as this area is a known hub of Special Groups activity.

Red placemarks represent incidents of explosively-formed penetrator (EFP) detonations or other attacks with probable links to Special Groups.

Yellow placemarks indicate discoveries of caches containing weapons associated with Special Groups.

Green placemarks identify detainments of suspected Special Groups criminals.

Purple placemarks label precision strikes against Special Groups by coalition aerial weapons teams and other aerial resources. The mapped list includes all MNF-I press releases that indicate confirmed or probable Special Groups involvement. It does not include reports from other sources.