The continuing decrease in coalition fatalities over the past three months (which invalidates one of my predictions at the beginning of 2006), along with the increase in Iraqi fatalities, has led many neoconservatives to suggest that we are succeeding in the strategy of transferring the responsibility of fighting the war to the Iraqis. Charles Krauthammer suggests this in a recent article (I'll add more links as I find them).
The general attitude is reflected by Krauthammer's statement:
Does not everyone who wishes us well support the strategy of standing up the Iraqis so we can stand down? And does that not mean getting the Iraqis to fight the civil war themselves?
Hence the gradual transfer of war-making responsibility. Hence the decline of American casualties. Hence the rise of Iraqi casualties.
Well, just one little problem here. If you look at the Iraqi deaths during the war, you will find that monthly police/military fatalities peaked in July of 2005, and then went down steadily until they stabilized at just below 200/month in November (actual numbers, low of 158, high of 193). The recent increase in Iraqi fatalities [compared to the last three months of 2005) is almost entirely due to an increase in civilian fatalities (or at least in reported civilian fatalities). This suggests that what is happeing might be more of a slight abandonement of Iraqi civilians rather than the Iraqi police and military taking over effectively.
Another issue is that coalition casualties are not necessarily down as much, only coalition fatalities are. Although the final numbers for February have not been tabulated yet at ICasualties (and no numbers at all for March), coalition casualties have apparently increased recently, but they are of the non-fatal kind including woundings serious enough that the wounded soldiers cannot return to duty.
In any case, while my prediction has not come to pass per se (unless of course we have a huge number of fatalities over the next week), I still think that this lull in fatalities is a temporary one. That is, unless the coalition is willing to let Iraq go completely to pieces while staying behind in the bunkers.
So I wouldn't count on the ability of the new Iraqi forces to replace coalition forces just yet.
That is all.