Sudarsan Raghavan did a great piece looking at American success in Fallujah in yesterday’s Washington Post. As he lays it out, the successes are very real — the city was once held by the insurgency, and now it’s basically under control. Specifically, it’s under the control of Col. Faisal Ismail al-Zobaie who served in the Republican Guard, then served as a commander in the insurgency, and then got fed up with AQI’s antics, and now serves, with American approval, as police chief of Fallujah.
He still doesn’t like Americans, still doesn’t like the Shiite government of Iraq, and still doesn’t like democracy. But he is happy to take American weapons and money and to cooperate with the American military. It’s not clear if his cooperation would continue if we asked him to cooperate by, say, running the town along liberal principles or submitting to the authority of the central government, but the local troops are trying to get along and he’s willing to get along. And so there you have your success. It’s real enough. It’s also obviously not what we invaded Iraq to accomplish (after all, the Republican Guard was running the country already before we invaded) and it’s not at all clear where it leads you.
If we leave, it seems to me that Colonel Zobaie will either govern wisely, or else he won’t. He may use a reasonable mix of firmness and good government to maintain control over his town, or he might screw up and tip things back to the insurgency. He may reach a reasonable accommodation with the central government or else he might not. And if we stay, all those same factors stay true.
U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Bendet