Larry De Rita, the ASD for Public Affairs at the Pentagon says that although the US Government has a good knowledge of the identities of the leadership of the Iraq insurgencies that DoD does not attempt to estimate the size of the population of the insurgency because "that would not be a worthwhile metric." What would that mean?
I think it means that the administration now realizes that their earlier assertions that the multi-faceted insurgency has no popular support is just wrong. What they now appear to understand is that there is enough support for the insurgency (whether nationalist or Jihadi) so that losses of personnel to combat action can be easily made up and new fighters recruited.
Someone wrote earlier to ask if I thought there is enough "Water in the sea" (using the Maoist metaphor) for the guerrilla "fish" to swim. It seems clear to me that there is enough "water" to keep the fish going for a long time. If there were not enough supporters, this thing would be over by now. It is the "wall" of passive resistance put up by supporters that provides the shield behind which the guerrillas operate.
Are there good and constructive projects happening in Iraq, Civic Action projects which many people there are grateful for? Of course there are. Unfortunately neither those good works nor the praiseworthy exercise in government creation in Iraq will have much effect on the prospects for pacification within what is called the Sunni Triangle until the large group of people who support the insurgents decide that they no longer wish to provide that support.
Why would they do that?
1-Despair may set in over the possibility of gaining anything in terms of relative power in Iraq through the insurgency. This would probably cause the insurgency to decline in violence to a level of endemic unrest which could be handled by the Iraqi forces.
2-A political compromise with the Shia dominated government that makes Sunni Arabs believe that they are not going to be second class citizens in their own country would greatly diminish support for the insurgents. Once again this would probably lead to a controllable but endemic situation of unrest. I do not think that this last possibility is going to happen for reasons of ethno-religious politics that I will write about next.