Despite the continuing incidents of car bombings and other terrorist tactics by the enemy, there is little doubt that Operation Lightening has seriously crippled his capability in the capital. This is highlighted by the event that led to the rescue of the Australian hostage. To find somebody hidden in a house in the sprawling jungle of residential areas of Baghdad is like finding a needle in a hay stack. It shows the degree of concentration of security forces in Baghdad has reached a point where it has become difficult for the enemy to hide or move. That is certainly positive. However, we still have to see the kind of intelligence and scanning of the inhabitants of these areas that is necessary in the light of the serious battle that is going on.
You have all seen how the terrorist incidents have now shifted to other areas outside the capital such as Baaqouba and Kirkuk. It was the stated and clear objective of the terrorists to concentrate on the capital and the fact that they are now forced to launch their attacks elsewhere is simply caused by the difficulties they are facing in Baghdad. Sure they can sneak in one or two car bombs and suicide individuals, but the ability to launch massive attacks, like the ones we saw in the first few days of the new government, is no longer there. The next stage of the campaign is obvious. The thin Sunni belt south and south east of the capital, the so-called triangle of death, i.e. The area stretching from near Falluja in the west, through Yousifiya, Mahmoudiya, Eskandariya, Salman Pak & etc.; an area well delineated and well known by the security forces, this area must be cleaned up and brought under control. In this way the siege on the capital can be broken from the southern side and the roads and communications between the South and the capital restored and protected; something vital that can allow for some serious reconstruction work to be started in the calmer part of the country.
Meanwhile the political process has to be pursued with doubled efforts. It is absolutely essential at this point to try to isolate the hopeless extremists amongst the Sunnis and encourage the reasonable elements. That there exist such elements I can assure you from my own personal knowledge of the fact, and that they are more numerous than what might be thought. In the Anbar province itself, there are people who are absolutely fed up with the violence, and these are not just few individuals but whole tribal formations. I think, though, that this fact is well known to the commanders on the ground. For instance, take the troubles in Al Qaim, on the Syrian border. The main tribe that is making trouble there is called Al Karabla (hence the village of the same name that was attacked recently by the U.S. forces.), some other quite powerful and fierce tribes in the location such as the Mahallat are of quite different bent of mind and are not enthusiastic about the insurgency. In other parts of the Anbar, there are tribes who are even friendly and cooperative such as the Ubaid near the town of Al Baghdadi (the location of one of the main bases of the U.S. army in the country at the site of a former Iraqi Air force base). However, it must be admitted that these groups are over numbered and overpowered by the rebellious elements that are well financed and supported from inside and abroad and instigated and inflamed by hate-filled lunatic religious fanatics of Al Qaida type, not to mention Syrian agents and the like. The good people there are suffering the most from intimidation and liquidation and have very little help from either the American forces who are mainly holding the area, or from the Iraqi government, which does not really exist in these parts.
The article referred to below in the Washington post has caught my attention. If it is the intention of the writer to say that more attention should be paid to those in this Sunni camp who are not happy about the violence, and may even help in the fight, I think he hit a correct note.
To summarize, we can say that basically Operation Lightening has been a good start but must be developed and expanded as quickly as possible, together with political and other measures to strengthen the right minded elements in the Sunni camp.