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Over the last month or two the Newsburglar has been trying to introduce you to the incredible work being done by independent journalists such as Michael Yon, Michael Totten, and The Long War Journal. All three have been relaying stories on how the situation in Iraq may have turned a significant corner. Relaying stories that you are unlikely to hear from MSM.

Policemen from the Iraqi National Police conduct room clearing training in the Rashid District of southern Baghdad

Well, even if MSM isn’t willing to talk about the improving war effort, it seems a few journalists overseas are at least willing to talk about how everybody’s not willing to talk about it. ABC News acknowledges some of the good news in a short piece, Iraqi Forces Are Leading Operations in Three Iraqi Cities With Little U.S. Support

As everybody mentions, these gains are reversible. But the progress is real. Prime Minister Maliki and his government have gone from being thought of, within Iraq, as incompetent and unwilling to make hard decisions to being endorsed my most major groups.

As of early March, the plan was for a joint Iraqi/American operation in Basra by June, and Mosul, maybe, by the end of 2008. By the end of March the Iraqi’s had made a unilateral decision to retake Basra. It didn’t immediately go well, but they re-doubled their efforts and the city is now mostly in the hands of the Iraqi Army and Police.

While Basra was still in doubt, the government moved to take control of Sadr City. After a few weeks of fighting, on May 10, the Sadrist movement signed an agreement with the Iraqi government that would allow the Army and police to move into Sadr City unopposed.

On that same day, the Iraqi security forces launched Operation Lion’s Roar in an effort to roll back al Qaeda and allied Sunni insurgent groups in Mosul. Iraqi forces captured “just under 200” Tier 1 and Tier 2 al Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq operatives. Prime Minister Maliki flew to Mosul on May 14 to personally direct operations in the northern city.

Significantly, of the three operations, we’ve heard the least about Mosul. Why? Because of the relative ease and lack of fighting with which the Iraqi Army moved into and reclaimed the city. The political points achieved by Maliki in taking on the Sadrists (because the Sadrists, like Maliki’s party, are Shia) caused the Sunni blocs to support the Mosul operation before it even began. The chief of the awakening councils in the province, Fawaz Jerba, said that there were ten thousand men ready to take part in the operation.

Since Mosul is so ethnically mixed however, the government is determined to build up the Police, rather than using the Awakening members.

It is a long time between today and the provincial elections slated for October. Many things could still fall apart. But, what appeared at first to be an ill-conceived operation in Basra may in restrospect have been a fatal blow to both Shia and Sunni insurgency. The Iraqi government, army and police, convince that the American army is not going to abandon them, have themselves stood up and moved forcefully to retake their country.

Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno told the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday that Iraq has made significant progress, specifically over the past 18 months. “I believe a self-reliant government of Iraq that is stable, one that is committed to governance and protecting its own people and serving all its people, a place that’s denied as a safe haven for terrorists and extremists and one that is integrated into the international community and a partner of the war on terror is absolutely possible in Iraq,” he said. “And I think it’s closer today than it has been.”

“What we’ve seen consistently over the last 12 to 14 months is an improvement in the command and control, the ability of the Iraqis; they’re learning,” he said. “They’re starting to understand the command and control at brigade, battalion, company level. We’ve seen significant improvements in that and in their ability to do planning.However, the Iraqis don’t have the capacity yet to sustain operations, Odierno said. “We still have to work on their full capacity to do this across the entire force, but we are seeing consistent improvement in these areas, and that’s what we have to continue,” he said.

The general said he is humbled and honored to be considered as the next Multinational Force Iraq commander. “I understand the great cost that our nation has endured in Iraq,” he said. “I also understand the importance of our mission there and the responsibility that comes with this position.

Additional Reading:

Mosul attacks down 85 percent

More Iraq US troop cuts ‘likely’. The top US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, says he expects to be able to recommend cuts in US forces before he leaves his post in September.

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