Hugh Hewitt recently interviewed Michael Yon (via satellite phone). Yon, in his dispatches, has alluded to a positive outlook when discussing some of the progress he’s seen. However, he has not come out and stated his assessment of if the surge is ultimately working or not. He does in the Hewitt interview (excerpted):
HH: Now Michael Yon, a lot of people don’t know the significance of Baquba. And so can you explain what peace in Baquba means for the larger war effort?
MY: Well, it’s huge, because al Qaeda had claimed Baquba as their capitol, their worldwide capitol. And you might recall one of the things that kind of upsets people about my reporting is I said Iraq was in a civil war, and I said that way back in February of 2005, and I continue to do so. But when I first wrote that, I was in Baquba, in 2005, and I spent two or three months here. And it was just total…you could see it, and you could see al Qaeda was trying to foment that civil war, because that’s their underlying strategy, is to do that. And so getting, fracturing al Qaeda here, and al Qaeda alienating so many Iraqis, it’s helping us to put a damper on the civil war.
HH: Now yesterday, Harry Reid said on the floor of the Senate that the surge has failed. Do you think there’s any factual basis for making that assertion, Michael Yon, from what you’ve seen in Iraq over the last many months?
MY: He’s wrong, he’s wrong. It has absolutely not failed, and in fact, I’m finally willing to say it in public. I feel like it’s starting to succeed. And you know, I’m kind of stretching a little bit, because we haven’t gone too far into it, but I can see it from my travels around, for instance, in Anbar and out here in Diyala Province as well. Baghdad’s still very problematic. But there’s other areas where you can clearly see that there is a positive effect. And the first and foremost thing we have to do is knock down al Qaeda. And with them alienating so many Iraqis, I mean, they’re almost doing it for us. I mean, yeah, it takes military might to finally like wipe them out of Baquba, but it’s working. I mean, I sense that the surge is working. Reid is just wrong.
HH: Michael, we lost you there. We’ve got about 45 seconds, so I just want to know, what’s the situation in Baghdad? Getting better, the same, or worse?
MY: Well, you know, I’ve been out of Baghdad for about a month, now, because I’ve been in Baquba. But to improve the situation in Baghdad, you have to improve the situation around Baghdad, because many of the attacks that are being launched in there are actually being prepared out here in these car bomb factories and what not. And so it’s these outlying areas which al Qaeda has been using to help foment the civil war. So if you want to see improvement in Baghdad, we need to secure places like Baquba, which Baquba is now secure.
I can’t say enough about how well Yon has reported with the front line soldier’s view of the war. His dispatches are well worth reading and keeping tabs on to gain an understanding of what we face.
Finally, remember Michael Yon relies on donations to be able to report from the war zones (Iraq, Afghanistan). Yon’s website (you can donate through it) is linked up at my blog roll.
UPDATE: U.S. general warns against early withdrawal from Iraq – Major General Rick Lynch, Commander 3rd ID (John Burns article, NYTimes – published by the IHT).