Al-Qaeda in Iraq

AL-QAEDA IN IRAQ….Joe Klein may or may not be a wanker, but honestly, he doesn’t really deserve any abuse for reporting in his latest column that (a) Anbar province is fairly quiet these days and (b) the tribal sheikhs in Anbar who lead the Sunni insurgency there have turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq. Both of these things have been widely reported elsewhere, and if Klein deserves any abuse here, it’s not for trusting anonymous government sources, it’s for trying to spice up his column by repeating common knowledge as if he had dug it up himself.

This tribal U-turn against AQI predates the surge by many months, of course, and mainly shows that the U.S. presence isn’t really necessary in order to fight them. The tribal sheikhs consider AQI a threat, and left to their own devices they’ll get rid of them on their own. That leaves us in the position not of staying in Iraq in order to fight al-Qaeda, but of staying in order to moderate a communal civil war, a task we’re singularly unsuited for.

So what happens in the unlikely event that lots of Republicans (and nervous Dems) figure that out by September and decide it’s time to get out? Phil Carter writes about the logistics of withdrawal in Slate today, and to my surprise he says this: “Even if commanders dictate a rapid pullout, it may take weeks or months to bring everyone home from Kuwait and the Persian Gulf region.” I have long been under the impression that basic force protection issues would force a withdrawal from Iraq to take the better part of year, but Phil apparently thinks it doesn’t have to. He also reads the tea leaves and suggests that the Pentagon already has detailed plans in place to do exactly this. They haven’t published the plans, but they’ve got them