Not a record to be proud of

Allied involvement in Iraq is no nearer to achieving the claims it set out to do.

Gulf News

Three years and three months after the allied invasion of Iraq the situation looks just as bleak as ever it was.

While British and American leaders try to put a good spin on events for the folks back home, the general public remains unconvinced and increasingly more doubtful that it is a winnable war.

Or even that there is a deliberate policy on how to extricate them from the quagmire they are in.

The White House and the Pentagon repeatedly claim things on the ground are not all bad, but a "curate's egg" situation good in parts is not the way to win public approbation, Iraqi, American or British.

Whoops of delight were heard on the announcement of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi's death in the mistaken belief everything would change from then on.

Certainly there has been success following the find of specific intelligence material belonging to the insurgents. It led to over 450 raids on suspects within only seven days, which resulted in the killing of over 100 presumed terrorists and the arrest of scores more.

Yet the problem persists: the total number of insurgents is unknown, neither the Iraqi security forces nor American troops know whether they have broken the back of the insurgency, or merely scratched the surface.

It does appear that for every one insurgent killed or arrested, two more volunteer to take over the terrorist activities.

Aside from killing Al Zarqawi, another milestone was reached in the past week. It was the death of a Marine, which brought the total to 2,500 in the 39 months the US has been in Iraq. It is a milestone the American president will not be pleased to acknowledge.

But in recognising the American dead, dead Iraqis should also be acknowledged. Allegedly, 4,800 Iraqi police have died and the US claims a suspiciously low figure of 30,000 Iraqi civilians being killed, although some estimates put the number at nearer 100,000.

What now faces the allied forces and their political masters is not only how to get out of Iraq, but how to do it in such a way that it neither seems too hasty, nor leaves behind a worse situation than before.

The allies have been training Iraqis to police the nation and be part of the armed forces once they withdraw a decision to be taken in conjunction with the new Iraqi government headed by Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki.

There are rumours that within the following week, Al Maliki will announce a partial withdrawal of British, Australian and Japanese troops from regions in the south.

This could be the precursor to a phased complete withdrawal within the next 18 months.

If that does take place, then the insurgents will have achieved what they claim they want, and will have no further excuses for their violence.