23 May 2004

Patience and persistence (and a big stick) pay off

[source, source]

American commanders said early Sunday that insurgents loyal to a rebel cleric appeared to have given up control of central Karbala, where they had been shielding themselves at two shrines. According to the commanders, there were several strong signs that the armed supporters of Moktada al-Sadr, the maverick Shiite cleric, have abandoned the area and ceded authority to the Americans and their allies after nearly three weeks of urban combat.

A large overnight raid met no resistance coming from a group of buildings where insurgents had been firing at American tanks with rocket-propelled grenades. Civilians were seen returning to homes in central Karbala that they had abandoned during fierce fighting. And in the afternoon on Saturday, tribal sheiks approached American commanders offering to persuade the militia, the Mahdi Army, to lay down its arms and leave the city.

“It looks like they just packed up and went home,” Col. Peter Mansoor, commander of the First Brigade of the First Armored Division, said in an operations tent on the city outskirts where he monitored field reports. Referring to Mr. Sadr, Colonel Mansoor said, “I think his days are numbered.”

Maybe the Marine knew what they were doing all along. This kind of slow motion collapse will be more discrediting than a battlefield defeat and much less likely to generate a matyr. It seems that Iraqis are smart enough to figure out that claims of victory don’t mean much when the enemy is intact and steadily advancing while killing the “victors” in job lot quantities.

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