Ending Insurgency in Iraq

It will take weeks, not days, to learn whether Saddam Hussein's capture will end the resistance in Iraq's "Sunni triangle." Indeed, the next few days could see an uptick in attacks on coalition and Iraqi targets as frustrated insurgents lash out.

Much depends on who the insurgents really are and who is financing and coordinating them. While many appear to be Baath Party and pro-Hussein holdouts, others are simply Iraqi nationalists or Islamists resisting occupation as their great-grandfathers did the British in the 1920s. A great deal of evidence suggests that Al Qaeda and other foreign fighters are also deeply involved. In fact, a recent Congressional Research Service report lists at least 15 different fighting groups, many of whom owe Hussein little allegiance.

Reports indicate that despite near-daily US and coalition casualties, the number of attacks has fallen in half in recent weeks as a result of successful US antiguerrilla operations. Still, many observers believe the insurgents have plenty of fight left in them.

Other reports claim the US is getting help from Israel in training a special antiterrorist commando unit that would target Baath insurgents for assassination - a dubious tactic outside battle; arrests are preferable.

The key to snuffing out the resistance is denying it the oxygen of dissatisfaction Iraqis feel over the slow pace of reconstruction and conflicting messages about how and when Iraq will regain a measure of sovereignty.

The occupation authority has a tough task in preparing Iraqi police and armed forces to assume more responsibility for security. On the civilian side, the Iraqi Governing Council's performance to date has been less than stellar. Even so, the United States must push forward with appropriate caution. The sooner competent Iraqis are making crucial decisions, the sooner insurgency will end.

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