A few days ago I emailed an Army officer in Baghdad about shipping some soccer balls over for the kids we met in the slums back in January. He emailed me back quickly, and in the course of discussing the soccer balls also offered his thoughts on how the surge is going so far. The surge had just begun while we were in Iraq; in fact, we were bumped off a C-130 flight from Kuwait to Baghdad by elements of the 82nd Airborne, who were the leading edge of the surge. This was two days before the surge was officially announced.

According to this officer, the security situation in Baghdad is improving. He also says that the political situation is improving, albeit at a slower pace. He says that there are stirrings of an effort by Iyad Allawi to pull the secular parties together and become a majority block capable of ousting Maliki and the sectarians from power. His email gave me the impression that this effort is embryonic, but it’s encouraging. Maliki’s uneven treatment of Sunnis has been an ongoing problem in Iraq, and national reconciliation is unlikely as long as such treatment remains more or less official Iraqi government policy.

Meanwhile, Jules Crittenden has some more encouraging news: US troops captured several major figures in a bombing ring.

The US military has captured the leaders of a car-bombing ring blamed for killing hundreds of Iraqis.

The news came as the departing US ambassador said Americans are in ongoing talks with insurgent representatives to try to persuade them to turn against al-Qaeda.

If that last effort bears fruit, it would be a huge development. It might figure into the Diyala offensive that Stak reported on Hot Air yesterday. Getting the insurgents to fight alongside the US and the Iraqi government against al Qaeda would probably spell the end of them, and might signal that Iran’s influence in Iraq is slipping away. The Iranians won’t take this lying down, of course. There will be a reaction of some sort, probably in the usual proxy way so the US press can downplay it as the actions of a few fringe actors. Factor in the apparent splintering of the Mahdi army and we might be seeing progress of the sort that is difficult for the enemies to reverse.

But the bottom line, in both the press and from a much more reliable source on the ground in Baghdad, is that the surge is working. So far.

Update: Email from another officer in Baghdad. It literally just arrived in my inbox.

My thoughts are many and varied on the current state of things in Baghdad, but let me tell you that the BSP is working.

Deaths are down from EJKs, the people who are trying to emplace EFPs are being killed, we are receiving tips from locals which has led to us finding one EFP recently, the people are friendlier to us now that they see us out walking around on the streets (absolute key is to get people out of their trucks and meeting people on the ground) and the Ministry of Health is cooperating with CF. Why? Because we are making the effort. Insha’allah, there will be joint missions between the IA, the MOH, and CF in the next few weeks. What a break through! And yet we want timelines? We are just getting started after three years of stalling!

Milspeak code…BSP=the surge and the shift in tactics to more foot patrols. EJKs=extra-judicial killings, or the actions of Iraqi sectarian death squads. IA=Iraqi army. CF=coalition forces.

The part about receiving tips from locals is key. We saw that at work in Al Salaam and Khadimiyah, the latter occurring as what looked to be a Mahdi spy lurked a half block or so away.