It's not just that Iraqis know their own neighborhoods better than us (though that's part of it), but that when it comes to exterminating AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq] Iraqis would almost certainly be far more brutal about it than Americans. That's not really a subject anyone wants to bring up in polite company.In other words, leaving will do more to attain the administrations stated goal than staying. It would have the added benefit of saving a lot of American lives and treasure.
But that doesn't make it any less true. If we leave Iraq, the country is unlikely in the extreme to become an al-Qaeda haven. Partly this is because it's rage at the American presence itself that provides a big part of the fuel for AQI's growth. Our withdrawal would eliminate that source of rage and devastate AQI's ability to continue its recruiting. Partly it's because, as we're seeing in Anbar province right now, even Sunni extremists don't like AQI. Left to their own devices they'll kill off AQI jihadists in order to protect their own tribal turf. And partly it's because once we withdraw, non-Kurdish Iraq will be free to finish its inevitable transition into a Shiite theocracy — a transition that's sadly unavoidable whether we stay or not. Yes, this transition will be bloody, but in the end Iraq will almost certainly be composed of the Kurdish north, which has no use for al-Qaeda; the remaining Sunni sheikhs, who also have no use for al-Qaeda; and the victorious Shiite central government itself, which likewise has no use for murderous Sunni jihadists on its soil. Between the three of them, AQI isn't likely to last a year.
Kevin (deliberately) doesn’t address the issue of how connected AQI is to the al-Qaeda we all know and loathe from 9/11. What few foreign al-Qaeda fighters are in Iraq would not last long once the Americans left as their alliance-of-convenience with Iraqi nationalist fighters would quickly disappear.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking along these same lines for some time and I was glad to see Kevin’s post. Go read the whole thing.