"1-149. Ultimate success in COIN is gained by protecting the populace, not the COIN force. If military forces remain in their compounds, they lose touch with the people, appear to be running scared, and cede the initiative to the insurgents. Aggressive saturation patrolling, ambushes, and listening post operations must be conducted, risk shared with the populace, and contact maintained."
Bearing that in mind, the news from CBS is that US casualties are down from last month quite significantly, while ISF and Civilian casualties rose significantly as well. The most likely explanation for this is that the offensives in the north are being conducted, not surprisingly at this point, largely by Iraqis and as a result, they're bearing the brunt of the casualties. It's also worth noting that casualty counts are also easily influenced by one or two particularly horrific bombing attacks, which February most definitely saw. But those expecting violence to continue on an upward trend based on numbers from January are out of luck for now.
Also in the news is a name that might be familiar by now. Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch is featured in an NBC story about creating jobs as a method to push counterinsurgency efforts:
"The fish farms are just part of what Lynch and his soldiers call "sustainable security." Once fighting in an area has been suppressed and Iraqi military and police take over, the U.S. troops look for ways to make it last."
Creating jobs and finding ways for Iraqis to contribute peacefully to the Iraqi economy is not just a parlor trick; it's critical to give people a reason to hope for prosperity and a way to work towards it. They need ways to earn money to provide for their families, and when we provide them we take support away from the insurgents on a political level. If they have what they need and can prosper under the current system of government, then they will not lend political support to those who would overthrow it and put their wellbeing in jeopardy as a result.
Efforts like this are more essential than killing is at this stage, although killing will always have its place. Some people are irreconcilable, but for the most part people just want to get by. Help them do that, and they won't turn against you. Make it hard for them, and they'll fight you every step of the way. But the way forward is still jobs and infrastructure. Those will do more to defuse the insurgency than anyone's death can. Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch is well aware of it, too. The US military is learning, and adapting to the situation like they should. Given time, they can and - as could not be certainly said two years ago - may well pull out a victory for Iraq.