Today's Washington Times analyzes the fighting in Operation Marador and asserts that Iraq has transformed itself into al-Qaeda's last stand -- which was one of the objectives of the Bush administration:The war in Iraq is increasingly looking more like a showdown with Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda followers than a battle primarily against Saddam Hussein loyalists.
The shift is making the fight a focal point of the U.S. global war against Islamic terrorists and one that might dictate whether the U.S. wins or loses, said a senior official and an outside expert.
"If they fail in Iraq, Osama and his whole crew are finished," said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney, a military author and analyst.
The changing dynamic was highlighted this week when the U.S. military launched a major offensive in western Iraq, primarily against foreign jihadists who crossed the border with Syria to join the al Qaeda network in Iraq led by Abu Musab Zarqawi. In a troubling sign, U.S. officers said Zarqawi's terrorists seemed well-trained and well-equipped.
The U.S. offensive, code named Operation Matador, entered its third day yesterday in the dusty border towns west of Baghdad near Syria. The command said three Marines and more than 100 enemy fighters have been killed.
"In the Muslim world and extremist world, this fight for Iraq is their key battle," said Gen. McInerney. "If they lose it, they lose the war. And so the imams are inciting young people, not particular well-educated, to head to Iraq. Most are going through Syria via Damascus.
"This is why Iraq is such a fundamental part of the global war on terrorism. When we finally defeat Muslim extremists, it will be the battle in Iraq that defeats them."
Of course, this is exactly what was meant by the "flypaper" strategy. One of the most difficult issues with fighting an asymmetrical war is finding the enemy. They survive by hiding and seeking shelter from like-minded but officially neutral states. However, if one can find a way to draw them out, it becomes much easier to defeat them, especially if they can be pinned down by geography.
I certainly hope this is the case. Meanwhile, Belmont Club and Chester are keeping track of Operation Matador.