Al Qaeda in Iraq and its presumed leader, Abu Musab Zarqawi, have conceded strategic defeat and are on their way out of the country, a top U.S. military official contended yesterday.While I certainly hope this to be true, we cannot underestimate the durability of the insurgency and the tenacity of al Qaeda to hold on a while longer. If anything, now is the time to redouble efforts to stamp out the insurgency and al Qaeda elements in Iraq.
The group’s failure to disrupt national elections and a constitutional referendum last year “was a tactical admission by Zarqawi that their strategy had failed,” said Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, who commands the XVIII Airborne Corps.
“They no longer view Iraq as fertile ground to establish a caliphate and as a place to conduct international terrorism,” he said in an address at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Gen. Vines’ statement came as news broke that coalition and Iraqi forces had killed an associate of Osama bin Laden’s during an early morning raid near Abu Ghraib about two weeks ago.
James Joyner at Outside the Beltway has a pretty thorough roundup, and also notes that this news counters much of the criticism leveled against Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Greyhawk notes the theater of combat overarching themes - and that includes lots of dead terrorists and al Qaeda trying to rally the troops with a new video.
Ed Morrissey notes the following:
This would be great news if we see it confirmed in the next few weeks. Zarqawi and his minions bet the house on either intimidating the Iraqis into rejecting the elections or provoking the country into a three-sector civil war between the Shi'a, Sunni, and Kurds. Neither occurred, although the country has seen plenty of sectarian street-fighting and tensions remain high. The seating of the permanent National Assembly marks a clear demarcation of history in the region, when an Arabic country embraced multi-party democracy and rejected the rule of the bullet or the strongman -- and they did it while lunatics like Zarqawi and his foreigners killed Iraqis by the dozen and score.Bryan Preston thinks al Qaeda is taking the Democrats' strategy on Iraq seriously - cutting and running. I disagree. It's still quite possible that this is yet another media operation designed to reduce pressure on al Qaeda in Iraq in a misdirection play. Then again, this media story could be the US attempting a misdirection play of their own. As the story is sourced to US military officials, that is a distinct possibility. By saying that Zarqawi and al Qaeda are jumping ship, the US is accomplishing two tasks - 1) potentially flushing Zarqawi and other al Qaeda into the open, and 2) taking the fight to the media and pushing US interests in the press. Both are crucial to winning in Iraq.
Riehl World View thinks that the battle in Iraq is won. Note that he said battle, not war. The conflict in Iraq is only one aspect of a larger conflict:
The people we are fighting there do not move together with military precision. And this shouldn't be construed to mean that terrorist bombings in Iraq are simply going to end over night. The GWOT is a strategic war and with Iran coming into focus as our main Middle Eastern threat, it is likely Al Qaeda will seek to either align itself more directly with Iran, or at least play on the margins of that conflict, as oppose to Iraq. It's more timely and terrorists want to be in the news and America's face.
It's called the Global War On Terror precisely because the battlefield is global. And leaders of the terrorist movement can jump from location to location if they perceive an opportunity to capitalize on Geo-political situations.
Jeff Goldstein thinks that the retired generals who openly criticized Rumseld may have to eat their words.
In the Bullpen has a different take:
Indeed it is already believed Zarqawi was relinquished of his command, or stepped down, in Iraq and tabbed only for military command. I believe that reason was because of his abysmal failures in the Iraq theater and Zarqawi’s desire and the desire of Al Qaida to open a front against Israel so the group can try to court Muslim support for the group that has been waning since Zarqawi’s primary target in Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia has been fellow Muslims. The group has failed in every single larger strategy they have tried though and while Iraq is not roses for the Coalition, it’s much worse for Al Qaida in Iraq.
I see it as a strategy rather than an admittal of defeat. People like Zarqawi don’t admit defeat. Even in the truce offering given by Osama bin Laden towards the U.S. in Afghanistan, though it was not actually a truce offering, OBL would never admit defeat. Defeat isn’t in the radical Islamic dictionary; it is replaced with submission and it is submission that this ideology seeks to achieve upon its enemies. It won’t submit to others.
Others blogging: Stop the ACLU, Wizbang, and The Jawa Report.