Taking Baghdad could mean losing Iraq.
Increasing reports of the progress of the current US surge indicate two contradictory and complimentary processes taking place at the same time. Inevitably, as with past operations initial flooding of areas by thousands of US and Iraqi troops has led to temporary and, so far, small dip in insurgent activity and sectarian violence. Body counts in the Tigris are slightly down and bomb attacks are slightly fewer, more opportunistic and less professional. Insurgents are playing safe and laying low for two reasons, one because taking on 3-5,000 troops engulfing a district is neither practical or wise and two, they are scrutinizing the US tactics before deciding how best to respond.
The contradictory, but complementary side is that the slight dip in Baghdad is also giving rise to a huge increase in combat and sectarian violence outside of the city, where large numbers of Baghdad insurgents have moved to during the clampdown. « Baghdadisation », which had already begun, is now accelerating and resulting in severe problems to insufficient numbers of US troops in towns and cities in other parts of the country. The situation is so bad and the US troops so overstretched that they look in real danger of loosing control of the situation and being defeated. This is especially the case in mixed towns and regions like Diyala province, an area where the US thought the battle had been won. So confident were they that the crack Iraqi forces were in control of the situation, plans were afoot to successfully withdraw.
Yet now attacks on troops has doubled and the ferocity of the insurgents is something they have not encountered before. Tactics are now much bolder with full-scale assaults and attacks on armoured vehicles. The streets of the provincial capital, Baquba are now virtually empty, whereas a year ago it was a bustling market town. Nearly all the 300,000 inhabitants stay in doors in fear of the mounting insurgency and the worsening sectarian and criminal violence. Similar situations are reported from other towns. Further afield violence is increasing in cities like Mosul and some reports suggest Kurdish dominated Kirkuk is near civil war. By quietening the most violent area, they risk spreading the civil war for the first time to its most peaceful in areas of Kurdistan.
The US is now in real danger of being totally overstretched and potentially overwhelmed. With forces massed in Baghdad, and Al Anbar province already an ungovernable virtual Wild West, redeploying troops to other areas will be impossible. Taking Baghdad could just cost them Iraq.