Chris Toensing: Troop surge in Iraq not successful, historian says

Historians in the News

The troop surge in Iraq is not nearly as successful as the media portrays it to be, a Middle East historian said in a lecture Monday in Giffels Auditorium.

In "The Iraq Surge One Year On," Chris Toensing, editor of the Middle East Report, disputed assertions by neoconservatives in the media concerning the "apparent success of the surge." He said the war in Iraq is far from over.

The claims of success are correctly based on two figures - the decrease in the number of violent deaths in Iraq and the increase in Sunnis cooperating with American forces to fight al-Qaida, he said.

Although American and Iraqi casualties have decreased by about half from a year ago, Toensing said the number of violent attacks is still high, and the current number of 500 civilian deaths a month is very violent by any standard.

The second factor - that Sunni Arabs are turning against al-Qaida fighters - is a phenomenon that began before the surge of American troops. The "Anbar Awakening" and other similar movements have about 72,000 "armed, concerned local citizens," Toensing said. The U.S. military is paying about 60,000 of them $300 per month, in addition to arming and training them to fight, he said.

The "awakenings" of Sunni leaders allying with the U.S. has a strong "mercenary" aspect to it, Toensing said. Tribal bands are helping quell violence in their areas, but are setting up independent fiefdoms to take over the lucrative black market, which is being used to finance al-Qaida attacks, he said.

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