Echoing what Gen. Dempsey said the other day and what Michael Yon’s been saying for months. Baseball Crank had an interesting short post last night that’s worth tagging here. Lost in the endless jeremiads about quagmire is the fact that the United States isn’t the only player in all this that’s been taught some hard lessons. With the eyes of the world upon them, AQ had a chance to fashion itself as a champion of Muslims against the west; instead they did everything they could to destroy the brand, to the point where, I suspect, their abiding scumminess is one of the few issues on which you’d find huge consensus among Iraqis across sectarian lines. Cue Ryan Crocker:

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq said Saturday that al-Qaida’s network in the country has never been closer to defeat, and he praised Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for his moves to rein in Shiite and Sunni militant groups…

“There is important progress for the Iraqi forces in confronting the Sunni and Shiite militias,” he said, speaking Arabic to reporters. “The government, the prime minister are showing a clear determination to take on extremist armed elements that challenge the government’s authority … no matter who these elements are.”

“You are not going to hear me say that al-Qaida is defeated, but they’ve never been closer to defeat than they are now,” Crocker said.

The U.S. military says attacks have dropped dramatically — down to an average of 41 a day across the country, the lowest rate since 2004 — amid the crackdowns and truces. The U.S. military, backed by Sunni Arab tribal fighters, have scored successes in battling al-Qaida in Iraq and other Sunni insurgents in western parts of the country.

“Near defeat” doesn’t equal “defeated” — follow the link for details on an assassination near Baquba — but the offensive in Mosul, one of the last cities with a major jihadi presence, has been successful enough for the Iraqi government to pronounce it cleared. It’ll take a few months to see whether that’s true or not, but it’s encouraging to see Iraqi troops working this theater while others roll into Sadr City. They can walk and chew gum at the same time. As, of course, can we. Exit quotation: “The increasing success and pace of airstrikes this year indicates that American spy agencies and their allies have made progress in infiltrating Al Qaeda in Pakistan, said Louis Caprioli, a former anti-terrorism chief of France’s DST intelligence agency.”