Charles Krauthammer

By the day, the debate at home about Iraq becomes increasingly disconnected from the realities of the actual war on the ground. The Democrats in Congress are so consumed with negotiating among their factions the most clever linguistic device to legislatively ensure the failure of the administration's current military strategy -- while not appearing to do so -- that they speak almost not at all about the first visible results of that strategy.

And preliminary results are visible. The landscape is shifting in the two fronts of the current troop surge: Anbar province and Baghdad.

The news from Anbar is the most promising. Only last fall, the Marines' leading intelligence officer there concluded that the U.S. had essentially lost the fight to al-Qaeda. Yet, just this week, the marine commandant, Gen. James Conway, returned from a four-day visit to the province and reported that we "have turned the corner."

Why? Because, as Lt. Col. David Kilcullen, the Australian counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, has written, 14 of the 18 tribal leaders in Anbar have turned against al-Qaeda. As a result, thousands of Sunni recruits are turning up at police stations where none could be seen before. For the first time, former insurgent strongholds such as Ramadi have a Sunni police force fighting essentially on our side.

Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a major critic of the Bush war policy, now reports that in Anbar, al-Qaeda is facing "a real and growing groundswell of Sunni tribal opposition." And that "this is a crucial struggle and it is going our way -- for now."

The situation in Baghdad is more mixed. Thursday's bridge and Green Zone attacks show the insurgents' ability to bomb sensitive sites. On the other hand, pacification is proceeding. "Nowhere is safe for Westerners to linger," reported ABC's Terry McCarthy on April 3, ``but over the past week we visited five different neighborhoods where the locals told us life is slowly coming back to normal.'' He reported from Jadriyah, Karrada, Zayouna, Zawra Park and the notorious Haifa Street, previously known as "sniper alley." He found that "children have come out to play again. Shoppers are back in markets," and concluded that "nobody knows if this small safe zone will expand or get swallowed up again by violence. For the time being though, people here are happy to enjoy a life that looks almost normal."


Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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