A secret study urges that U.S. agencies at least agree on how to measure success or failure in Iraq.
12/08/2005 10:16 AM
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Still, military sources say they see signs that support for the resistance is fading, even in Sunni areas. When insurgents shot down a civilian helicopter northwest of Baghdad in April, killing six Americans, three Bulgarians and two Fijians, local residents quickly turned in the alleged culprits. The accused kidnappers and killers of British relief worker Margaret Hassan are likewise under lock and key—again thanks to local tip-offs. Intercepted communications between terrorists suggest increasingly that they are under severe pressure.
The question is how long the American people´s patience will hold out. In a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released last week, 57 percent of respondents said Iraq hadn´t been worth the war´s cost. It was the lowest measure of support since the war began two years ago. A senior administration aide says the numbers have hovered near that level for some time. People will inevitably look for some semblance of progress, he says, whether it´s less bloodshed or a U.S. troop drawdown. Otherwise they´ll turn weary and frustrated. He speaks in a matter-of-fact tone, as if prepared for the prospect.
But that kind of progress seems out of reach at present. The insurgents appear to have an abundance of lethal explosives and aspiring martyrs. "The insurgents can keep car bombs going forever," says Donnelly. And military analysts are predicting no major U.S. withdrawals for at least a year. "The absolute best case is that we might—might—be able to see a substantial reduction in American forces starting in mid-2006," says Lawrence Korb, a former Pentagon official now at the Center for American Progress.
Meanwhile U.S. leaders are looking for hope wherever they can find it. Some intelligence officials even interpret the recent bombings of Iraqi police stations and military posts as a positive sign. Successful attacks are just dumb luck, they argue, and the high casualty figures merely reflect the fact that growing numbers of Iraqis are putting their lives on the line against the insurgency. That´s the way things look from a safe distance, anyway. "The administration can stomach television images of Iraqis getting killed," says a former administration official who had a key role in Iraq policy. Images of American dead in comparable numbers would be quite another story. The war´s approval rating is bad already. If it gets much worse, any other gauge of the counterinsurgency will seem irrelevant.
With Mark Hosenball, Tamara Lipper, Eve Conant and Richard Wolffe in Washington
© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.
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