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March 27, 2008

The Global Patriot Incident

On March 25, the American Forces Press Service issued the following:

A ship on short-term charter to the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command fired warning shots at a small boat approaching the ship as it was preparing to transit the Suez Canal last night, military officials reported.

There were no reports of casualties from the ship, the Global Patriot.

Officials said several boats approached the Global Patriot while it was preparing to transit the Suez Canal. The boats were hailed and warned by a native Arabic speaker on the Global Patriot to advise them to turn away. Other warning steps, including a signal flare, were used to caution the boats.

One small boat continued to approach the ship and received two sets of warning shots 20 to 30 meters in front of the boat's bow. All shots were accounted for as they entered the water, officials said.

Here's the same story with video

The initial report of no casualties, however, turned out to be wrong. The next day the AFPS issued this

U.S. 5th Fleet officials today expressed regret for the death of an Egyptian citizen who died the night of March 24, an apparent result of warning shots fired at a small boat approaching a ship chartered by the U.S. Navy.

"We express our deepest sympathies to the family of the deceased," Vice Adm. Kevin J. Cosgriff, 5th Fleet commander. "We are greatly saddened by events that apparently resulted in this accidental death. This situation is tragic, and we will do our utmost to help take care of the family of the deceased."

The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet Command continues to work cooperatively with Egyptian authorities, including the Suez Canal Authority, through the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, officials said. A full investigation into the incident is under way....

Oh boy, I thought, here we go again. Will we get the same reaction from the left as we did in early January when several small Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats zoomed around 3 US Navy ships?

This blog doesn't get many comments, but I did get one on the post that I wrote about the incident from some leftist who wrote that "So, WHY was it that the Iranians threatened the US? Funny stuff, eh pal? Some jokester on the CB airwaves! The Pentagon once again has mud on its face." Over on his own blog he took great delight in mocking the administration. I heard much the same from commenter "anon" over at the most excellent DowneastBlog (I can't find the exact post).

The incident with the Global Patriot hasn't received the same coverage, but the Internet being what it is I felt sure that someone else was blogging about it. I checked the Daily Kos and Huffington Post to see if they had anything. To their credit, I have only been able to find straight-up news reports on those two blogs. So unless I'm missing something they're not engaged in any wackyness on this one. There is a long thread about it over at the Democrat Underground, but other than the usual talk about "mercenaries" not much of note.

You don't have to go far on Google, however, to find posts on "Global Patriot". This guy titles his post "Global Patriot Lied: Egyptian WAS Murdered", so you know where he's coming from. Another says that the incident proves that we're "ignoring sovereignty". His theory is that we're trying to paper over the affair because "It's just some Egyptian guy", but if it is was an Australian "the papers would go beserk!" There are more but these came up on page 1.

Now, I'm sure that many leftists are being responsible about this incident, as my search of the Daily Kos and Huffington Post showed. And no doubt the right has it's share of nutty bloggers as well.

I just rather thought I'd use this post to discuss this from a larger perspective. Because if the left isn't going nuts over the incident with the Global Patriot, the one in January with the Iranian speedboats showed that too many will rush to see anything as another Gulf of Tonkin Incident, just as every spike in violence in Iraq is seen as portending another Tet Offensive.

My friend (ok I've only met him once) Steve Schippert was writing the other day over at National Review's The Tank blog about an incident in Iraq, but his words apply here as well

There are things beyond our control in Iraq. And there are mistakes we make. But there are far more things that we simply are not aware of because we are not omniscient or omnipresent. Or, you can believe that we are a torturous, imperialistic force of bad actors and worse actions. Take your pick.

Anyone who has read this blog at all knows that I take the former position.

With regards to the Global Patriot, any one of a number of things may have happened. Our guys may have simply miscounted the rounds as the hit the water and not realized that one hit the Egyptian. Or the rounds may have skipped along the water (yes this really happens) and then hit the Egyptian. The contractors simply assumed that the rounds went into the water.

Another possibility is that Egyptians may really be members of a Jihadist organization like al Qaeda and killed their own guy to stage an incident (kind of like a suicide bombing but for purely propaganda purposes). It's also possible that the contractors lied about the incident.

Maybe we'll never know.

The question is, what is your initial reaction? If it's to give our side the benefit of the doubt then you possess moral clarity. Yes, let's pursue a vigorous investigation. But as with Schippert, it annoys me to no end that there are those who's first reaction is to assume that the American government is lying, misleading, racist, on and on.

And please, lets not have any tripe about how we all need to "question authority". That's not what this is about. It's about a knee-jerk leftism that lives in the past and wants every American military venture to become another Vietnam.

The bottom line is that bad things happen by accident. You can take every imaginable precaution and you will still have incidents of this sort. And it doesn't matter whether a conservative Republican or liberal Democrat is in the White House.

This said, we do need to be aware that incidents such as this one will be exploited by the anti-American and Jihadist media to their fullest extent. As I have written many times, we are engaged in a War of Ideas as much if not more than one involving bombs and bullets. We need to do all that we can to keep these incidents from happening. We also need to do all that we can to put our own media in place so that when they do we can get out our side of the story quickly and efficiently.

I think that the responsible position is to simply wait for the results of the investigation. If we don't think the investigation was honestly done, then let's say so. If the results of the investigation are such that we need to change our procedures, fine, let's do so. If we even need to prosecute people let's do so, though this seems unlikely. But it's at best irresponsible to judge before the facts are in.

In the meantime, though, can we please give our side the benefit of the doubt?

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 25, 2008

Iraqi Perspectives Project - Saddam and Terrorism - Tied to Terror

Over at National Review's military blog The Tank, Steve Schippert is taking the msm to task for their misreporting on the latest release by the Iraqi Perspectives Report, Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents . As I discussed in my initial post on the report, much of the media was obsessing on a single sentence which supposedly "proved" that there was no connection between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda, and so by implication "Bush Lied" and the war is unjust.

From Schippert's post

It's no different from, nor unrelated to, the widely disseminated assertion that Saddam's Iraq had "no ties" to al-Qaeda. Both statements are bogus. Both are lazy. And both, more often than not, consciously or unconsciously, result from politically motivated preconceptions that are wrong but difficult to dispel in the minds of the irretrievably convinced...

The job of distilling major reports that are too lengthy and time-consuming for most to digest in full still falls largely on the established media. Yet the media's sorry secret is that precious few among them do actually read and distill the major works, such as the recent Iraqi Perspectives Report. Most often, reporters scan the executive summary, latch onto a passage that fits their particular personal idiom, and craft a column peppered with almost random background notes and the names of the political figures of choice....

Here's a starting point. Before anyone writes another word on the Iraq Perspectives Project report, read it.

In fact you have to do is download and read the Executive Summary to know that 1) Saddam had many links to al Qaeda, even if they were informal ones, and 2) he was a major state sponsor of terror, because there are certainly more terrorist groups on this earth that al Qaeda.

But Schippert is certainly right about last December's National Intelligence Estimate. I downloaded and read it, and what I read bore little resemblance to media reports. See here and here. And I read in its entirety the original Iraqi Perspectives Report. Go to the sidebar under "Categories" and select "Iraqi Perspective Project" to see my chapter-by-chapter posts.

When it was first released only the Executive Summary was posted for downloading, and you had to order the rest as a 5 CD set. Due to public demand the United States Joint Forces Command has posted the whole thing online at the link above.

I haven't gone through it all yet, but today's Washington Times has an excellent editorial on it. Obviously they have actually read it.

Newly declassified documents captured in Iraq show that Saddam Hussein's regime had extensive ties with a variety of Islamist and other terrorist groups, in some cases dating back to the early 1990s. Saddam's Iraqi Intelligence Service (or Mukhabarat) established a working relationship with Egyptian Islamic Jihad, whose leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, later merged the group with al Qaeda, according to a new report by the Institute for Defense Analyses. In addition, the Mukhabarat trained scores of non-Iraqi Arabs to attack Israel. The new report contains copies of captured Iraqi documents that provide what may be the most detailed picture ever of Baghdad's support for terrorism.

Few stories in recent memory have been as badly misreported by the mainstream media. News outlets -- including The Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN and ABC --all issued reports earlier this month declaring that the IDA report showed no link between Saddam and al Qaeda. While the report does say that there was no direct operational link between the two, its most significant new disclosure may be evidence of ties between Zawahri's EIJ and Saddam's regime. A 1993 memo from Iraqi intelligence to Saddam says that Iraq had aided the Egyptian group previously and was restarting contacts with the goal of overthrowing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's government. Two other Iraqi memos included in the IDA report describe the EIJ's terrorist bona fides, including its assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981 and emphasize the importance of training and financing that group. Zawahri, who is believed to be in hiding with Osama bin Laden, is on the FBI's most-wanted-terrorism list for his role in the Sept. 11 attacks and the August 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

In fact, the al Qaeda connection only scratches the surface of Saddam's terrorist ties. As Rowan Scarborough reported in this newspaper on Friday, the IDA report reveals that Saddam provided millions of dollars and arms to Palestinian terror groups and trained Palestinians in Iraqi terror camps. Saddam's security service maintained representatives in the West Bank and Gaza, who met with Hamas founder Ahmad Yassin and conveyed his military needs to Baghdad. Another terrorist who found refuge in Baghdad was Abu Abbas, a leader of the Palestine Liberation Front, who engineered the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro. The documents show that Abbas served as Saddam's conduit for meetings with Hamas. Coalition forces captured Abbas in 2003 as he attempted to flee to Syria. Abbas died of natural causes while in custody the following year.

The IDA report also includes translations of Iraqi Intelligence Service documents that describe efforts to destabilize other Arab governments, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and the regime's campaign to kill humanitarian aid workers operating in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. The study also reveals that on Sept. 17, 2001, Saddam gave orders to his military intelligence directorate to recruit Iraqi officers to conduct "suicide operations" against the United States.

Posted by Tom at 8:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 22, 2008

"The Speech: A Brilliant Fraud"

Of all the editorials I've seen on Senator Barack Obama's recent speech, Charles Krauthammer's is the best. Writing on The Washington Post on Thursday:

The beauty of a speech is that you don't just give the answers, you provide your own questions. "Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes." So said Barack Obama, in his Philadelphia speech about his pastor, friend, mentor and spiritual adviser of 20 years, Jeremiah Wright.

An interesting, if belated, admission. But the more important question is: which"controversial" remarks?

Wright's assertion from the pulpit that the U.S. government invented HIV "as a means of genocide against people of color"? Wright's claim that America was morally responsible for Sept. 11 -- "chickens coming home to roost" -- because of, among other crimes, Hiroshima and Nagasaki? (Obama says he missed church that day. Had he never heard about it?) What about the charge that the U.S. government (of Franklin Roosevelt, mind you) knew about Pearl Harbor, but lied about it? Or that the government gives drugs to black people, presumably to enslave and imprison them?

Obama condemns such statements as wrong and divisive, then frames the next question: "There will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church?"

But that is not the question. The question is why didn't he leave that church? Why didn't he leave -- why doesn't he leave even today -- a pastor who thundered not once but three times from the pulpit (on a DVD the church proudly sells) "God damn America"? Obama's 5,000-word speech, fawned over as a great meditation on race, is little more than an elegantly crafted, brilliantly sophistic justification of that scandalous dereliction.

His defense rests on two central propositions: (a) moral equivalence and (b) white guilt.

(a) Moral equivalence. Sure, says Obama, there's Wright, but at the other "end of the spectrum" there's Geraldine Ferraro, opponents of affirmative action and his own white grandmother, "who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe." But did she shout them in a crowded theater to incite, enrage and poison others?

"I can no more disown [Wright] than I can my white grandmother." What exactly was Grandma's offense? Jesse Jackson himself once admitted to the fear he feels from the footsteps of black men on the street. And Harry Truman was known to use epithets for blacks and Jews in private, yet is revered for desegregating the armed forces and recognizing the first Jewish state since Jesus's time. He never spread racial hatred. Nor did Grandma.

Yet Obama compares her to Wright. Does he not see the moral difference between the occasional private expression of the prejudices of one's time and the use of a public stage to spread racial lies and race hatred?

(b) White guilt. Obama's purpose in the speech was to put Wright's outrages in context. By context, Obama means history. And by history, he means the history of white racism. Obama says, "We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country," and then he proceeds to do precisely that. What lies at the end of his recital of the long train of white racial assaults from slavery to employment discrimination? Jeremiah Wright, of course.

This contextual analysis of Wright's venom, this extenuation of black hate speech as a product of white racism, is not new. It's the Jesse Jackson politics of racial grievance, expressed in Ivy League diction and Harvard Law nuance. That's why the speech made so many liberal commentators swoon: It bathed them in racial guilt while flattering their intellectual pretensions. An unbeatable combination.

But Obama was supposed to be new. He flatters himself as a man of the future transcending the anger of the past as represented by his beloved pastor. Obama then waxes rhapsodic about the hope brought by the new consciousness of the young people in his campaign. Then answer this, Senator: If Wright is a man of the past, why would you expose your children to his vitriolic divisiveness? This is a man who curses America and who proclaimed moral satisfaction in the deaths of 3,000 innocents at a time when their bodies were still being sought at Ground Zero. It is not just the older congregants who stand and cheer and roar in wild approval of Wright's rants, but young people as well. Why did you give $22,500 just two years ago to a church run by a man of the past who infects the younger generation with precisely the racial attitudes and animus you say you have come unto us to transcend?

Exactly right.

Posted by Tom at 9:08 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

March 19, 2008

Iraq Briefing - 13 March 2008 - Tremendous Turnaround in Al Anbar

I'm a bit late in getting this one up, but events intervened. I did want to post this though because it is important.

This briefing is by Colonel John Charlton, who is commander of 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. Multi-National Division - Central is the responsibility of the 3rd ID, and "its major area of responsibility is the security zones located along the southern edge of Baghdad and scales from the border of Saudi Arabia to the border of Iran." The 1st Brigade is headquartered in the provincial capital of Ramadi in Al Anbar province. 1st Brigade (or maybe all of the 3rd ID, I'm not sure) is nearing the end of it's deployment in Iraq, having been there since February 2007.

Col Charlton reports to Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, otherwise known as Task Force Marne. Lynch reports to Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq. Austin, in turn, reports to Gen. Petraeus, commander of Multi-National Forces - Iraq. Petraeus reports to the commander of CENTCOM, who was Admiral Fallon until last week. Until a permanent replacement is found, Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey is acting commander of CENTCOM. Dempsey reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

This video and others can be viewed at DODvClips. The transcript is here.

Following are what I think are the most important parts of this briefing, but please click on the video and watch the whole thing.

We'll start with Col Charlton's opening statement and move to the Q & A with the reporters

COL. CHARLTON:... Central Anbar province was a devastated war zone when we arrived in January 2007. Ramadi was the most violent city per capita in the world and averaged 30 - 35 daily attacks. That number is now less than one per week. We have experienced weeks without a single incident, and Ramadi has experienced 300 days without an attack since March 31, 2007.

Al Qaeda was entrenched in Ramadi and controlled the population through their murder and intimidation campaign by killing innocent men, women and children who refused to follow their radical interpretation of Islam. We were able to overcome Al Qaeda's ideology with the guidance and support of the area tribal and religious leaders. They recognized the atrocities committed by Al Qaeda and partnered with Coalition forces to establish stability and security. The attitude of the Iraqis toward Al Qaeda in Iraq can be summarized by a local sheikh saying, "It is better to die a free man than live under the thumb of Al Qaeda." With their help and the Anbar people's rejection of Al Qaeda, they now live peacefully with security and stability.

A year ago, the Iraqi security forces were in their infancy with less than 2,000 police, and the two Iraqi army brigades in my area were operating at 50% strength. We helped recruit and train the police, increasing their ranks to 9,400 police in central Anbar, and our partnered Iraqi army brigades are operating more than 100% strength. We built joint security stations, police stations, expeditionary forward operating bases and a city-wide security perimeter that enables the police to provide security.

Note the section in bold. Col Charlton did not say "we went in and killed the al Qaeda". Of course they did that, but bombs and bullets ("kinetic operations" in the current lingo) alone do not win a counterinsurgency.

We did not have a true counterinsurgency strategy until December of 2006, when then Lt. Gen. Petraeus' team published the U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24 that is now our troops bible. From the field manual

A-60 ...Whatever else is done, the focus must remain on gaining and maintaining the support of the population. With their support, victory is assured; without it, COIN efforts cannot succeed.

Back to Col Charlton

Once we established security, we were able to devote our attention to reconstruction and economic development. We have completed 1600 reconstruction and day-labor projects that have transformed Ramadi from a war zone into a thriving community. We made outstanding progress by focusing development in several areas. We built a small business center to award future reconstruction projects, facilitated micro-grants for small business owners, identified economic zones throughout the city to help ignite economic growth, helped the Iraqis open a ceramics factory and created fishing and farming co-operatives that modernized and improved agriculture in central Al Anbar.

Again, all classic counterinsurgency tactics. The first rule is to establish security, the second is to promote economic development which leads to jobs.

What impresses me is that our troops have to know so much more that "just" warfighting. They are virtual mayors, diplomats, city planners, city managers, water and sewer engineers, business development specialists and economists.

The defeat of Al Qaeda has allowed the citizens of Ramadi to reclaim their great city. City markets, schools, playgrounds, soccer fields and businesses are all alive and thriving. The Iraqis held a 5K fun run through downtown Ramadi in September 2007, along a route that was once the deadliest street in Iraq. They celebrated their liberation from Al Qaeda with two parades. There is a flourishing women's civic center and a city museum, making Ramadi the only city in Iraq beside Baghdad to have a museum. All of this happened in the last 12 months by working closely with our Iraqi partners.

As we move forward and prepare to return to Fort Stewart, I can say that the Raider brigade contributed immensely to defeating Al Qaeda and stabilizing central Anbar province. We have witnessed Anbar transform from one of the most dangerous provinces in Iraq to one of the safest. In the opinion of many people, this has been one of the most remarkable chapters of the US military's operations here in Iraq.

Later on, though, Col Charlton warned that although al Qaeda was down it wasn't out

Well, you know, first of all, the security situation is good, but we're always ready. Al Qaeda really wants Ramadi back. I mean, this was their capital. They declared -- (audio break) -- Islamic State of Iraq.

And so they're continuing to try to launch attacks into Ramadi. We've had several cases where the police have successfully interdicted suicide vest bombers or car bombs. So the threat is still out there, and so we're always, you know, keeping our eyes open for that, not letting our guard down.

Now it's on to the Q & A. The first one get's straight to the heart of another major issue in counterinsurgency; government legitimacy

Q Colonel, this is Bob Burns with AP. As Bryan mentioned, we didn't hear all of what you said, but I believe you made some reference to the local political scene and activity in Ramadi and the rest of your area. I'm wondering, given the uncertainty now about provincial elections this year, what's your assessment of what impact it would have if in fact there are no provincial elections in October, as once thought?

COL. CHARLTON: Well, I think that the -- the people that we talk to here in Anbar are looking forward to the elections. They realize that their lack of participation in 2005 hurt them in the long run, and there's been many issues associated with that. So they're very much looking forward to these elections. And when I talk to the sheikhs, they still believe that those elections will happen in October or in that time frame. So they're anticipating it very much.

Now, if they were not to happen, there would certainly be some disappointment. The one thing that I've observed, though, in the months that I've been here is that the Iraqis are very patient people. They understand the challenges that face the government, and they lead a tough life in many instances. But I do notice that they're very patient.

So there would be some -- there would be some disappointment. There would probably be some -- you know, potentially some demonstrations, certainly would be that the people of Ramadi would continue to ask for the elections to occur. I don't think there would be any violence. I don't see that occurring. But there would certainly be some disappointment.

This is exactly what Lt. Gen. Odierno (formerly commander of MNC-Iraq) worried about last month when he said that

What I worry about is, there's a window. And we need is some political progress in order to maintain this window. And if we don't maintain the window, the populate will feel that they have no where to turn and I don't know what will happen then, and so this is what makes this somewhat of a tentative security gain right now. Because unless you have the populace behind you you will not maintain security.

FM 3-24 makes it pretty clear that political progress must happen also

1-4 Long term success in COIN depends on the people taking charge of their own affairs and consenting to the government's rule. Achieving this goal requires the government to eliminate as many causes of the insurgency as possible.

1-113 LEGITIMACY IS THE MAIN OBJECTIVE. The primary objective of any COIN operation is to foster development of effective governance by a legitimate government.

Now, in case there are any anti-war types reading this, counterinsurgency warfare also stipulates that before the political progress can take place the population must be secured.

1-131 SECURITY UNDER THE RULE OF LAW IS ESSENTIAL The cornerstone of any COIN effort is establishing security for the civilian populace. Without a secure environment, no permanent reforms can be implemented and disorder spreads.

So all of the lefties running around saying that Iraq is a failure because "there isn't a military solution" and we haven't made sufficient political progress don't know what they're talking about.

Q Colonel, it's Luis Martinez of ABC News. Since the security situation's so much improved in your sector, how important is economic development? Has there been any economic development there, so you can get the jobs that will keep people permanently off the streets?

COL. CHARLTON: Well, that's a huge part of fighting a counterinsurgency, is that you have to help stimulate economic growth because of just what you said. You want to have some alternatives for people out there. You know, if someone has a steady job and they're providing for their family, they're going to be less likely to join the ranks of the terrorists. So we've been working very hard on that.

(Audio break) -- city was in ruins. There was just rubble everywhere -- (audio break) - we created kind of a New Deal program for the Iraqis here -- (audio break) -- they started spending money. And shops started to open -- (audio break).

We've also helped the Iraqis build two business centers...

And I'll tell you, if you drive through Ramadi right now, you'll see construction going on everywhere. And I'll drive down a -- (audio break) -- that I had been on just a week earlier, and I'll see two or three more shops opening up. Our biggest problem right now in the city is traffic. We've opened up the main route, and because the economy is booming, traffic has really started to become a problem. So it's a good problem to have, but it's amazing to watch the economic growth.

Now, I don't know what the unemployment figures are. They're still way too high. My best estimate would probably be 30 to 40 percent, so we're continuing to work on that issue.

Next comes the toughest question of all. To win a counterinsurgency you have to get the population on your side. They want to sit on the fence, which is a loser for the government side. One of the things we've been doing is starting and getting citizens to join what we called "Concerned Local Citizens" groups, recently renamed to "Sons of Iraq" (there is a separate program for women). We are not providing arms to these groups, though everyone in Iraq seems to have an AK-47.

Q Colonel, it's Jamie McIntyre from CNN. You talked a little bit about this, but I just want to press you a little bit more, on the concerned local citizens, the Sons of Iraq. Some people have characterized the payments to them as essentially bribes that are, you know, bribing people to stop fighting each other, and when the money dries up, the violence will return. I know you've talked about transitioning them into the Iraqi government. But how do you respond to that criticism generally that we're essentially buying off the sides at the moment to get a short-term peace?

COL. CHARLTON: Well, I mean, that's certainly a pessimistic opinion. But what my experience was out here was that when we moved into an area with the Iraqi army and cleared it of terrorists, immediately young men from those villages or from those tribal areas or from the city would come up and want to volunteer in the police. And so they were doing it truly out of -- for patriotic reasons as part of their obligation to their tribe, to their country, to their community. I mean, that's what I saw.

And like I said, when we first started these programs, these guys weren't getting paid a dime. And they were -- through the hot summer, they were standing post in their neighborhoods, protecting those neighborhoods from being re-infiltrated by al Qaeda. And I was really impressed by that. I mean, this was true patriotism at the lowest level.

And we helped them out with -- you know, with some humanitarian assistance, but they were not being paid. It wasn't until late summer that the system was developed to actually pay them. And we felt that was a moral obligation since these guys were putting their lives on the line....

And I understand those criticisms, but I'll tell you, we didn't advertise, you know, that "Hey, join the police force and we'll give you money." These guys lined up by the hundreds because they were sick and tired of what al Qaeda was doing to their communities and they knew that they had to stand up and fight.

I'm glad McIntyre asked that question so we can get these issues out into the open. Col Charlton answered it pretty well, I think. I'm not going to say that no one joins the Iraqi Security forces or Sons of Iraq for money, but he demonstrated that this certainly wasn't the case in any widespread sense in his AOR.

There's a lot more to the interview, so again please watch the whole thing and follow along with the transcript.

All in all, we've made tremendous progress in Iraq, thanks to the hard work and dedication of the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the bravery of thousands of Iraqis.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 18, 2008

Obama's Big Speech

So Senator Obama gave a speech today in an attempt to do some damage control. The Senator, you see, has a "pastor problem", and the situation is threatening to get out of hand.

A few months ago I could not have imagined this would have happened. I figured that he might get tripped up saying something stupid about foreign policy, or that Sen McCain would best him in a debate. At most there will be a few controversial people on his staff, and there would be the usual story of the week but that would be that. I did not imagine that it would be revealed that for 20 years he sat in the pews of a church listening to a pastor saying the types of things that we have heard his pastor say.

I used to like Barack Obama, and have said so several times on this blog. He seemed like a decent enough fellow, sincere if wrong. But with this incident I now see him in a different light, and it's not a good one.

I think at this point we've all seen or heard the good Rev. Jeremiah Wright, recently retired as pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, in action. If not, you can start here and here.

Some months ago Mitt Romney gave a speech in which he addressed the issue of religion. Some will try and draw a comparison between Romney's speech and Obama's, but it's a false one. Romney's issue was akin to that of then-Senator John F Kennedy; there were and are people out there who didn't like him simply because he chose a religion different than there own. There was some "aren't Mormon's kind of weird?" stuff out there and he had to show otherwise.

But this was different. What Rev Wright said was downright hateful. The man spewed forth one nutty conspiracy theory after another. He went on and on and on. And the crowd loved it.

In his speech today Senator Obama somehow needed to convince us that 1) What Rev Wright said was a one-time thing, and/or that 2) he managed to attend this church for 20 years without knowing about Wright's true beliefs. Did he succeed?

I'm not going to go through his entire speech, but there are a few key parts that caught my attention.

First, though, what is notable is that Obama spent most of the speech not discussing the subject at hand; his relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright. He goes on and on about the subject of race, slavery, the founders, poverty, economic opportunity or the lack thereof, the immigrant experience, and of course, "change". All in all, he spends very little time discussing Wright. I think what he tried to do is hide the issue of Wright in the midst of all a lot of rhetoric and hope that we forget about him.

As such, most of the speech was simply irrelevant. Apparently we're all supposed to be so impressed with his soaring rhetoric that we just won't worry about who he's been listening to for 20 years.

Cutting out all of the fluff here are some of the critical parts

...we've heard my former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation -- that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Rev. Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain.

Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely -- just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice.

Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country -- a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America, a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

He says he's condemned the views of Rev Wright. Ok, I accept that. I'll take him at his word here. And he's certainly right that the Rev Wright's views are "profoundly distorted".

The attempt at equivalence, though, "just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed." is absurd. We're not talking about how to fund social security, or your views on abortion, Senator Obama.

As such, Rev. Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive...

Ah "divisiveness". I've noticed that this is a favorite of liberals, to claim that people who disagree with them are "divisive". And in this sentence Obama seems to be saying that being "divisive" is worse than being wrong.

Why associate myself with Rev. Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church?

Finally, the real question gets asked. Let's see what he has to say.

And I confess that if all that I knew of Rev. Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and YouTube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

That's where he lost me. I don't buy the notion that he sat in those pews for 20 years and never heard Wright say the things he has said in the videos in question.

And of course the videos are played a lot, Senator. If the left had equivalent video or audio about a Republican running for president, don't you think they'd play it over and over too?

Next we have the "but Mussolini makes the trains run on time" justification.

But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than 20 years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor.

He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine, who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth -- by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

It is invalid to justify what Wright said because he did good elsewhere. It doesn't work that way.

Like other black churches, Trinity's services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear.

Uh, that wasn't the issue, Obama. I think we all know that religious worship in most black churches is different than that in most white churches. We all accept cultural differences. But once again Obama is trying to hide. The issue is that the audience was cheering Wright on as he said awful things. What he said was no surprise to them, because they've heard it before.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother -- a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

If he had disowned Wright he could have gotten at least a partial approval from me and others. But despite all of his soaring rhetoric, in the end he couldn't do it. And why not?

Shelby Steele, writing in the Wall Street Journal, has the best take, I think, on Obama and the issue of race. Be sure to read the whole thing, but here's a snippet

The fact is that Barack Obama has fellow-traveled with a hate-filled, anti-American black nationalism all his adult life, failing to stand and challenge an ideology that would have no place for his own mother. And what portent of presidential judgment is it to have exposed his two daughters for their entire lives to what is, at the very least, a subtext of anti-white vitriol?

What could he have been thinking? Of course he wasn't thinking. He was driven by insecurity, by a need to "be black" despite his biracial background. And so fellow-traveling with a little race hatred seemed a small price to pay for a more secure racial identity. And anyway, wasn't this hatred more rhetorical than real?

But now the floodlight of a presidential campaign has trained on this usually hidden corner of contemporary black life: a mindless indulgence in a rhetorical anti-Americanism as a way of bonding and of asserting one's blackness. Yet Jeremiah Wright, splashed across America's television screens, has shown us that there is no real difference between rhetorical hatred and real hatred.

The invaluable Victor Davis Hanson, writing at National Review, also, echoing my theme at top that Obama spent most of his time not talking about the issue at hand.

Obama chose not to review what Wright, now deemed the "occasionally fierce critic." said in detail, condemn it unequivocally, apologize, and then resign from such a Sunday venue of intolerance -- the now accustomed American remedy to racism in the public realm that we saw in the Imus and other recent controversies.

Instead, to Obama, the postmodernist, context is everything. We all have eccentric and flamboyant pastors like Wright with whom we disagree. And words, in his case, don't quite mean what we think; unspoken intent and angst, not voiced hatred, are what matters more.

Rather than account for his relationship with a hate-monger, Obama will enlighten you, as your teacher, why you are either confused or too ill-intended to ask him to disassociate himself from Wright.

Here's the bottom line

We are not talking about a few offhand comments that Rev Wright made during a sermon. Nor are we talking about a simple lament over the plight of black people in the United States. This man has gone off on a long-winded rants in which he espoused one crackpot left and right-wing conspiracy after another.

There is no way that for 20 years he preached the love of Jesus and then one fine day changed his tune and decided to talk about other matters.

Let's also be clear that we're not talking about a minister somewhere who happened to endorse Sen. Obama. We're not even talking about someone who's endorsement Obama went after, or about someone he had recently hired for his staff. All of this is forgivable. If Obama had recently hired Wright without vetting him, that may open him up to the charge of incompetence, but that's about it. You can't be held responsible for what all of your advisors and supporters say.

But the facts as I understand them are that Barack Obama went to this church for 20 years. Wright married him and Michelle. He baptized their children. Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope, is taken from a Wright sermon. Wright is (or was, I'm not sure if he's resigned or not) Sen Obama's spiritual advisor for the campaign.

There is no way he was unaware all these years of Rev. Wright's views.

Therefore, most of his speech today was simply irrelevant. At this point I'm not interested in hearing from him about the history of race relations in this country or what he thinks we need to do to make them better. And no we can't simply "move on". I am interested in hearing how he went to a church for 20 years and did not know the views of the pastor.

He did not answer that question today, nor did he even seriously try. The reason he didn't is that he can't. He knew.

Let's also get this out of the way; two wrongs don't make a right. This affair is not what some white minister said somewhere, so let's not try and use that as an excuse. Obama has held himself up as a new type of politician. He's the one who put himself on the pedistal.

We'll end with Juan Williams lowering the boom on Obama.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 17, 2008

Iraqi Perspectives Project - Saddam and Terrorism - The Bush Administration

Yesterday I introduced the latest report from the Iraqi Perspectives Project (IPP); Saddam and Terrorism. I'll have more about it in later posts, but for now I wanted to discuss something else; the state of the Bush Administration and why they let this report get portrayed in a negative light.

And unless you only read right-wing blogs, it has been portrayed negatively. Many or most press reports have fixated on a single sentence in the Executive Summary, whereby the authors said that "This study found no 'smoking gun' (i.e., direct connection) between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda." Smugly satisfied that this alone "proved" that "Bush lied", they blithely ignored the rest of the report. As I illustrated yesterday, that single sentence proved nothing of the sort, and even a casual perusal of the rest of the report showed many links between Saddam's regime and all sorts of terrorist regimes, including indirect ones with al Qaeda. Indeed, unless you're a complete Bush-hater, the report quite condemned Saddam Hussein's regime.

There were also a few articles in the conservative press bemoaning the fact that the Bush Administration was nowhere to be found. Indeed, they have been almost completely AWOL in this entire affair, apparently happy to have it released and let events take their course. The administration has been totally silent on the IPP report.

This whole affair got me to thinking; in all the writing I've done about Iraq and the War on Jihadism ("War on Terror", or whatever we're going to call it), the administration has hardly figured at all. For military information I go directly to the source, relying on Pentagon press briefings and journalists in-country. For information on Jihadism and radical Islam, I rely on scholars and writers.

Indeed, most of my discussion of the administration over the past two years has been to criticize it. This post won't be much different.

To be fair, I haven't been universally critical of the administration. They did eventually recognize that the Rumsfeld/Abizaid/Casey strategy in Iraq was failing, and approved the "surge" plan, which was carried out by the winning team of Gates/Petraeus/Odierno.

But in 2006 and 2007 I did take the administration to task for many things; the Harriet Myers fiasco, the prolifigate spending, the belated recognition that our strategy in Iraq wasn't working, the inability to articulate or even try to make the case for Iraq or the wider war, their negligence in using our vast amounts of "soft power" in addition to military force, the fixation on the ridiculous "peace process" in the Middle East, and the refusal to say forthrightly that our enemy is more than just a gang of terrorists but an entire movement of Jihadists.

Obviously much of the media will be focused on the presidential campaign. Nevertheless, the administration should at least be trying to make itself relevant. The fact that it has figured so little in my writing speaks volumes about how they haven't.

Bill Kristol, writing on The Weekly Standard , tells us how and why they have been so absent when this most recent IPP report was released

If you talk to people in the Bush administration, they know the truth about the report. They know that it makes the case convincingly for Saddam's terror connections. But they'll tell you (off the record) it's too hard to try to set the record straight. Any reengagement on the case for war is a loser, they'll say. Furthermore, once the first wave of coverage is bad, you can never catch up: You give the misleading stories more life and your opponents further chances to beat you up in the media. And as for trying to prevent misleading summaries and press leaks in the first place--that's hopeless. Someone will tell the media you're behaving like Scooter Libby, and God knows what might happen next.

Ok, I understand the bit about not wanting to refight the reasons we went to Iraq. We are where we are and unless anyone can produce a time machine the only thing relevant at the moment is what we are going to do next. Most of those who insist on talking about why we went in are only looking to force a precipitous exit anyway. Let's save the histories for the next decade.

But when a major report does come out you have to take the bull by the horns and get out in front of the story. A basic rule of politics is that either you define the situation or your opponents will define it for you, and once they have done so it's almost impossible to get back in control of events.

David Frum
, writing on his blog at National Review, summed it up

This is a psychologically broken administration: exhausted, passive, prematurely aged, self-defeated.

It is lying on the mat moaning as its opponents kick it, unwilling/unable to block a blow or raise a hand in self-defense.

The indifference to quality of personnel - always a problem - has now become the defining characteristic of the administration. The president continues to imagine he is pursuing one set of policies. But because he allows retiring principals to be succeeded by their deputies, and then those deputies to be followed by their deputies, he has passively acquiesced in allowing his administration to be staffed by people who regard his policies as at best impossible, at worst actively wrong. And then he is surprised when his administration does the opposite of what he wished! Of course it does! If you won't steer the car, it won't go where you want!

Frum believes that the moment when things started to go wrong came at the beginning, with the appointment of Condoleezza Rice as National Security Adviser. The reason, he says, was that bush "needed a strong figure at NSC to broker those clashes. Instead, he chose the weakest NSC adviser in that institution's history." The result was "a total breakdown of policy coordination."

I don't know enough about the inner workings of the administration to say whether that analysis is accurate or not. My take is more that the administration simply became exhausted by the Iraq War. The failure to advance Social Security reform in 2005 and the twin disasters of the Katrina hurricane and the appointment of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court derailed his domestic policy.

Either way, the failure to make the case for Iraq and Saddam's link to terror is inexcusable.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 16, 2008

Iraqi Perspectives Project - Saddam and Terrorism

In seven posts during March and April of 2006 I summarized and commented on the Iraqi Perspectives Project. Go to the sidebar under "Categories" and select "Iraqi Perspective Project" to see them.

A DOD press release at the time described the Iraqi Perspectives Project as an

...unclassified historical report in book form on the Iraqi view of coalition military operations conducted in Iraq. Conducted by U.S. Joint Forces Command's Joint Center for Operational Analysis, the Iraqi Perspective Project (IPP) is a research effort focused on coalition military operations in Iraq from March to May 2003. This project focused on the perspectives of the Iraqi civilian and military leadership involved in major combat operations gathered through interviews conducted during the fall and winter of 2003/2004, and an extensive review of Iraqi historical documents done in the months since then.

Basically, we interviewed high ranking Iraqi government and military officials to get their "perspective" on a number of issues. We wanted to discover the inner workings of the Saddam regime, and find out why they did what they did in the years between the Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Among the things we wanted to find out about was their military preparedness, how they tried to stop our invasion, and of course WMD. You can download the report here.

A New Report

Earlier this week a new IPP report was released: Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents (this is the redacted version. I have ordered the entire 5 CD set, which you cannot download but must order. I missed it's release and only found out about it from Steve Schippert on NRO's The Tank.

Apparently, the report was completed in November 2007 but only released this week. The left, including some news outfits (often one and the same), is as usually wrapped up in kooky conspiracy theories along the lines of this being "the report Bush didn't want you to see".

As usual, the truth is more complicated. Here's the Executive Summary (thank you to Steve Schippert, because copy-and-paste is blocked from the pdf download)

The Iraqi Perspectives Project (IPP) review of captured Iraqi documents uncovered strong evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism. Despite their incompatible long-term goals, many terrorist movements and Saddam found a common enemy in the United States. At times these organizations worked together, trading access for capability. In the period after the 1991 Gulf War, the regime of Saddam Hussein supported a complex and increasingly disparate mix of pan-Arab revolutionary causes and emerging pan-Islamic radical movements. The relationship between Iraq and forces of pan-Arab socialism was well known and was in fact one of the defining qualities of the Ba'ath movement.

But the relationships between Iraq and the groups advocating radical pan-Islamic doctrines are much more complex. This study found no "smoking gun" (i.e., direct connection) between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda. Saddam's interest in, and support for, non-state actors was spread across a variety of revolutionary, liberation, nationalist, and Islamic terrorist organizations. Some in the regime recognized the potential high internal and external costs of maintaining relationships with radical Islamic groups, yet they concluded that in some cases, the benefits of association outweighed the risks. A review of available Iraqi documents indicated the following:

  • The Iraqi regime was involved in regional and international terrorist operations prior to OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM. The predominant targets of Iraqi state terror operations were Iraqi citizens, both inside and outside of Iraq.
  • On occasion, the Iraqi intelligence services directly targeted the regime's perceived enemies, including non-Iraqis. Non-Iraqi casualties often resulted from Iraqi sponsorship of non-governmental terrorist groups.
  • Saddam's regime often cooperated directly, albeit cautiously, with terrorist groups when they believed such groups could help advance Iraq's long-term goals. The regime carefully recorded its connections to Palestinian terror organizations in numerous government memos. One such example documents Iraqi financial support to families of suicide bombers in Gaza and the West Bank.
  • State sponsorship of terrorism became such a routine tool of state power that Iraq developed elaborate bureaucratic processes to monitor progress and accountability in the recruiting, training, and resourcing of terrorists. Examples include the regime's development, construction, certification, and training for car bombs and suicide vests in 1999 and 2000.

From the beginning of his rise to power, one of Saddam's major objectives was to shift the regional balance of power favorably towards Iraq. After the 1991 Gulf War, pursuing this objective motivated Saddam and his regime to increase their cooperation with - and attempts to manipulate - Islamic fundamentalists and related terrorist organizations. Documents indicate that the regime's use of terrorism was standard practice, although not always successful. From 1991 through 2003, the Saddam regime regarded inspiring, sponsoring, directing, and executing acts of terrorism as an element of state power.

That sounds pretty damning doesn't it? Not if you're a leftist who insists that the only thing that's important is finding a document similar to the Tripartite Pact between Japan, Germany, and Italy which ties Saddam directly to al Qaeda. if so then you latch on this this sentence in the second paragraph of the Executive Summary quoted above.

This study found no 'smoking gun' (i.e., direct connection) between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda

And, in fact, al Qaeda is mentioned in the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq, which was passed in October of 2002 by the U.S. Congress.

Whereas members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq;

This "whereas" is one of 24 justifications in the document for authorizing force in Iraq.

Before we go on, a few points are necessary.

  1. Whether the statement in the Joint Authorization is true or not does not in and of itself invalidate the war, and
  2. Even if the statement is false it does not, ipso facto, mean that "Bush lied". Unless, of course, you're the only person on earth who has thought something to have been true and later turned out to have been mistaken.

So what's in the report? On page 34

Captured documents reveal that the regime was willing to co-opt or support organizations it knew to be part of al Qaeda - as long as that organization's near-term goals supported Saddam's long term vision.

From page 41 about his support of terrorism in general

Saddam Hussein was demonstrably willing to use terrorism to achieve his goals. Using this tactical method was a strategic choice of Saddam's, often requiring direct and indirect cooperation with movements, organizations, and individuals possessing,in some cases, diametrically opposed long-term goals.

And on page 42 we have this

Saddam supported groups that either associated directly with al Qaeda (such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, let at one time by bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri) or that generally shared al Qaeda's stated goals and objectives."

Summarizing the report, Thomas Joscelyn writes on The Weekly Standard blog that

The Iraqi Intelligence documents discussed in the report link Saddam's regime to: the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (the "EIJ" is al Qaeda number-two Ayman al Zawahiri's group), the Islamic Group or "IG" (once headed by a key al Qaeda ideologue, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman), the Army of Mohammed (al Qaeda's affiliate in Bahrain), the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan (a forerunner to Ansar al-Islam, al Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq), and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (a long-time ally of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan), among other terrorist groups. Documents cited by the report, but not discussed at length in the publicly available version (they may be in a redacted portion of the report), also detail Saddam's ties to a sixth al Qaeda affiliate: the Abu Sayyaf group, an al Qaeda affiliate in the Philippines.

Also see Saddam's Dangerous Friends: What a Pentagon review of 600,000 Iraqi documents tells us, by Stephen F. Hayes in The Weekly Standard, and Media swings and misses on IDA's Saddam report on
Regime of Terror.

My own brief look at the IPP report does not show that any al Qaeda people were in Iraq at the time of the invasion. Obviously it shows that there was not a formal, or even informal, alliance. What it does show is that Saddam used many terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, to further his goals.

Going back to the Joint Resolution, we see "terrorism" or a form of the word mentioned no less than 19 times. Here are a few examples

Whereas after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, Iraq entered into a United Nations sponsored cease-fire agreement pursuant to which Iraq unequivocally agreed, among other things, to eliminate its nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs and the means to deliver and develop them, and to end its support for international terrorism;

Whereas Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations;

Whereas Iraq continues to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations, including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of American citizens;

(emphasis added). There are more references, but you get the point. And I think it's pretty clear from the report that Saddam's Iraq was guilty of these acts.

The Nature of Our War

Our enemy is not simply al Qaeda. We are fighting what Lt Col (Dr) David Kilcullen has called a "global insurgency". The insurgency consists of many groups, all around the world, who share the common goal of reestablishing the Caliphate and subduing the West. That this may sound fantastic does not make it less so, or less possible that it might well be achieved.

Al Qaeda is at the head of the snake. It is the "top" organization, but this is not a strict hierarchy. Neither Osama bin Laden nor his top aids are vital to its functioning. Killing them would have no more effect on winning the war than the death of Ho Chi Minh in 1968 had in ending the Vietnam War.

Kilcullen explains what this has to do with Iraq

Indeed, current actions in the War on Terrorism appear disparate if viewed through a terrorism paradigm. Some (like international law enforcement cooperation to counter terrorist financing) fit the terrorism paradigm neatly, while others (the Iraq War, counter-proliferation initiatives, building influence in Central Asia, containment of North Korea and Iran) appear unrelated to an anti-terrorism agenda and are thus viewed with suspicion by some. However, if viewed through the lens of counterinsurgency, these actions make perfect sense.

The left wants to limit the WOT to a very narrow police action against al Qaeda. They don't even see it as a war, nor do they see the enemy as anything more than terrorists. This is why they see it as a crime problem, rather than as the global insurgency that I believe it to be.

The bottom line is that one, Saddam was deeply involved in supporting terrorism, whatever his formal links with any one organization. Two, that all Islamic terrorist groups represent a threat to our friends and interests, and three, that this does show that the Bush Administration was correct to make terrorism part of the Joint Resolution to authorize the war.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

March 13, 2008

"Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq" - March 2008

This past Tuesday the Department of Defense released it's quarterly report, "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq". As stated in the report,it is "submitted pursuant to the section entitled "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq" of House Conference Report 109-72 accompanying H.R. 1268, Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005, Public Law 109-13." You can download this and other valuable reports from the Defenselink Publications website.

Following are a few quotes from the report, followed by my comments. Although I have looked at all 69 pages, my time is limited and I've skimmed through rather than read the entire document. Readers are encouraged to download it and judge for themselves. Copy-and-paste has been blocked, so I had to type the sections that follow. All errors are therefore my own.

From the Executive Summary:

The security environment in Iraq continues to improve, supported by limited but important gains on the political, economic and diplomatic fronts. Violence levels have declined since the last report and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are gradually assuming responsibility for maintaining law and order and promoting stability. New strides have been taken in reconciliation at the national, provincial, and local levels, and the Iraqi economy is growing. However, recent security gains remain fragile, and sustained progress over the long term will depend on Iraq's ability to address a complex set of issues associated with key political and economic objectives
Violence levels are down throughout most of Iraq. Since the June 2007 report, deaths from ethno-sectarian violence are down nearly 90%. Total civilian deaths and Coalition deaths have each dropped by over 70%. A number of factors have contributed to the decrease in violence in Iraq, to include a Coalition focus on securing the population, progress against Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), rejection of AQI by significant portions of the population and the continued strength of the tribal Awakening movement and Sons of Iraq (formerly known as Concerned Local Citizens,) limitations on malign Iranian influence, Muqtada al Sadr's order to jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) to suspend attacks, actions in source and transit countries against foreign fighter facilitation networks, and an increase of over 100,000 Iraqi Army, police, and border forces.

However, their remain a number of concerns. AQI and other extremist groups remain resilient; though they have sustained significant losses, these groups continue to post a substantial threat and continue to carry out barbaric attacks. While their strength and influence are significant reduced in Anbar Province, Baghdad, the belts around Baghdad and many areas of Diyala province, AQI elements remain highly lethal in parts of the Tigris River Valley and in Ninewa Province. AQI members have,in particular, been targeting key figures in the Awakening movement and Sons of Iraq groups and have also been conductiona smaller number of less effective, high-profile attacks against the local population. Additionally, ethno-sectarian struggles over power and resources continue, and among Shi'a groups, criminal activity and infighting continue to impede progress.

Several things are noteworthy from what we have so far. One, that tremendous progress has been made in the all-important area of stopping insurgent violence. Just this past Sunday, newly arrived in Iraq Marine Corps Maj. Gen. John F. Kelly (I Marine Expeditionary Force FWD) said in a press briefing that he was stunned at how low the levels of violence were in comparison with his previous tours. Other commanders have echoed similar themes, documented here at The Redhunter.

Second, the adoption of classic counterinsurgency tactics played a large role in bringing us to where we are. Although some will try and portray the Anbar Awakening as a completely indigenous movement, the truth, as Maj. Gen Walter Gaskin said in December that it would not have happened without U.S. forces.

Lastly, that although we have achieved much, the gains are fragile and we still face significant challenges. "Fragile" was just the word used by Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil in December to describe the gains made by his 1st Cavalry. Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, in his February "exit interview", also made clear that things could still go very wrong.

Continuing, here is a section the summarizes the economic and governmental issues

On the economic front, enduring improvements are dependent on the the GoI's (Government of Iraq) still-tenuous ability to provide essential services and improve oil, electricity, and water infrastructure. Advances in these areas are critical to keeping Iraq on the path to sustainable economic development. On the political front, much will depend on continued legislative progress and the implementation of recently passed legislation, improvements in the effectiveness of Iraq's ministries and whether Iraq's political leaders have the will and ability needed to turn nascent political accommodation at the local and national levels into lasting national reconciliation. Further progress will depend on the continued ability of Iraqi leaders to capitalize on the hard-fought gains achieved by the Coalition and Iraqi forces and other courageous members of Iraqi society who are dedicated to peace.

The report itself is a mix of good-news-bad-news, but there is definitely more of the former than the latter. Quoting anything from the body of the report runs the risk of becoming too selective to be useful, and I think the Executive Summary accurately represents the facts presented in the report.

My conclusion is pretty straightforward; we're on the right track, and rather than talk about how fast we can pull out, we ought to be talking about how to consolidate and expand upon our gains. People who either want us to lose or don't care take the first position, those who want us to win the latter. I look at our current crop of political candidates and judge them on whether they want to win or lose in Iraq. So far, the choice is pretty clear.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 11, 2008

Iraq Briefing - 09 March 2008 - "Levels of violence -- stunning to me how low they are"

Maj. Gen. John F. Kelly (I Marine Expeditionary Force FWD) is the new Marine Corps commander in Iraq, having replaced Maj. Gen. Walter Gaskin (II Marine Expeditionary Force FWD) in February at Multi-National Forces - West as part of normal rotation. Within MNF-W are the cities of Ar Ramadi and Fallujah.

Maj. Gen. Kelly reports to Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq. Austin, in turn, reports to Gen. Petraeus, commander of Multi-National Forces - Iraq. Petraeus reports to the commander of CENTCOM, who was Admiral Fallon until earlier today (I will write about this when more facts were known). Until a permanent replacement is found, Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey is acting commander of CENTCOM.

This video and others can be viewed at DODvCLIPS. The transcript is here.

Gen Kelly spoke about their partnering with the Iraqi Army

GEN. KELLY: ...That is, the training teams that we have with them, Army and Marine, are very large, larger than what were required originally. We made them that way so that the training teams could live with the Iraqi units 24/7, fight with them, eat with them, shower with them....

We also partner. There's almost nothing that goes on anymore that we do, that we're not partnered, that is to say accompanied, by a like-size Iraqi army unit. But there's an awful lot going on recently of Iraqi army only. And when I say Iraqi army only, they're not out there with a Marine or a U.S. Army unit, but they're doing it on their own. But once again, the MiTT teams, the training teams are with them.

As part of covering these briefings, many times on this blog I've covered the "Sons of Iraq" program (formerly "Concerned Citizens Councils") that are so important . Because of attitudes towards women which are typical of traditional societies (and not so long ago in our own), the men do not want women as part of their Sons of Iraq units. Gen. Kelly describes how they solved that problem

For a long time, the individuals that we work with, particularly around Fallujah, did not want to have women in their police force, but then came to us and asked us to help them organize some women into what they termed Daughters of Iraq to help with the security, the searching of Iraqi women as they go in and out of checkpoints. We always did this, of course, before with our own female Marines and soldiers, but the Daughters of Iraq have even given us a little bit more advantage in that regard.

Indeed, there's a related story about the "Sisters of Fallujah" on the MNF-West website.

When the Q & A started, the first and understandably most important subject was the status of al Qaeda.

Q General, it's Pauline Jelinek of the Associated Press. Could you describe how much influence or clout al Qaeda still has in Anbar, and whether you could -- do you see the possibility of them reasserting themselves as they're pushed out of Nineveh and elsewhere?

GEN. KELLY: Well, I think the best way to characterize it, I think, is that they're down but they're not out. When I came in about a month ago and took over, the briefings I received was that the al Qaeda units or individuals that were here had been beaten to some -- to the degree, at least, that they had either gone to ground or just simply left the province and went to other parts of the country. What we're seeing -- down but not knocked out. What we're seeing is, there is still some occasional violence that we attribute to -- in the province that we attribute to al Qaeda.

But, you know, the good news story is, and it is very key in an insurgency, they don't last very long in anything approaching a built- up area, even a village, without us being notified by the locals. I could give you any number of examples, even since I've been here, where the local folks have come to us, either through tips lines or just in the general day-to-day contact we have with them, and told us about people who are either hiding out or if they're down in the reeds near the river or something unusual is going on over here. Then we set up a watch, obviously, and take it down.

And so they're still around, and of course they watch very closely what we do and have the luxury of acting only when they think they can get away with something, where we always, of course, have to be a hundred percent effective. But they're still around, but not to any degree like they were when -- certainly when I left here.

The first part of Gen. Kelly's answer is interesting for the military details, but it's his second part - where he assesses the level of violence in Anbar, that was the most important part of this entire briefing.

Q Yeah, Jon Karl with ABC News. How many coalition forces are now in MNF-W? And what is the primary threat you're seeing? Give us an idea for numbers of attacks and where those are coming from....

GEN. KELLY: Well, we have a lot of coalition forces in the province. Wouldn't want to go into the details, but roughly in the neighborhood of 25(,000) to 30,000 U.S., all service personnel, majority Marines. We have -- again, when I think of what I'm dealing with day in and day out in terms of my security forces, I also include those two Iraqi divisions and the 24,000 police. I don't technically command the divisions, of course, nor do I command the police, but with the training teams that are down there in the police stations and with the battalions, brigades and the division, we certainly heavily coordinate everything that we do. And we've got, you know, great communication going. I'm out and about, as I mentioned before, a lot. I drop in unexpectedly to the police stations to see my people, who are the training teams. So when I talk -- when you talk coalition forces here, I think you really have to probably say we've got about -- coalition force is roughly 30,000, but I think -- you can't discount the other 45,000 that we work with every day here and really are in the lead. And that is the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police.

Levels of violence -- stunning to me how low they are. I mean, absolutely, when I left here three years ago, you could not go into the cities here, Fallujah, Ramadi, places like that, without a rifle company of Marines, and it was a gunfight going in, gunfight coming out. You couldn't drive from Ramadi to Fallujah, which I did almost every day back then, and not see four or five IEDs or the end result of four or five IEDs on that 40 miles of road. I mean, it is nothing like that now....

I mean, I've been here a month and haven't heard much in the way of gunfire, even, except on Thursday nights, when the weddings take place.

This next exchange is interesting for what it shows about the cultural differences between the United States and Iraqi society. We often get absorbed with dates and anniversaries, but to the Iraqis it's just not that important.

Q To follow up, this IO (information operations) campaign -- is it tied to anything such as the five-year anniversary of the war or an upcoming religious holiday?

GEN. KELLY: All right. No, I -- you know, I don't -- it is the fifth anniversary. I don't -- you know, I've got a fair amount of time here, and of course, as I said, it was my third time back. We tend to -- and I can remember this before -- we tend to tie -- dates and, you know, anniversaries tend to be a bigger deal, I think, to us than it is to them. They operate on their own time schedule, and they are -- you know, they try something, and perhaps if it doesn't work, they try something else. If they try something that works, they'll stay with it for a while, until we can counter it.

So no, I don't think there's anything tied to an anniversary or anything like that. I don't think they -- they're not as hung up on these kind of things as we seem to be sometimes.

Another subject of discussion was "nation building", though of course no one used that term, verbotten as it is.

Q General, this is Andrew Gray from Reuters. I wonder if you could tell us when do you expect Anbar to go to provincial Iraqi control (PIC)in terms of security. And when would you expect to start drawing down Marines in Anbar?

GEN. KELLY: ...Interesting enough, the -- we're very close to PIC here. The -- I wasn't really handed any kind of a timeline. All of these kind of things are event-driven. We do have a -- we do have kind of a checklist of things that both the governor -- and he plays a huge role in this, and should -- that the governor has his side of the checklist. I have my side of the checklist. We comment on each other's bits and pieces, and as an example, you know, whether the police can assume certain roles because of the equipment they have or may not have....

But it's really a collaborative effort, and we are very, very close here in the province as we sort out just a couple of things, equipment-type issues in the province, as well as just the -- and this is key -- the relationship between the province -- and this is governor stuff -- between the province and the national government. I think, as I view this relationship right now, you have a very -- you know, their background, their experience has been socialism, you know, very tightly controlled central government and everything is kind of just -- all of the rules, regulations, diktats go down into the provinces. I think the provinces prefer -- the governors prefer to have an awful lot of input. They want to identify what Al Anbar province needs and then provide that to the government and the ministries. And we're working it out with them.

One of the things on both sides of that equation, they're learning how to be a central government and they're learning how to be provincial governors and officials in a world that is very, very alien to them.

One of the amazing things about Iraq is that it seems we are starting from scratch. Sometimes I sit and think, "didn't they have a government and military before we went in?" Even Germany or Japan weren't this tough, we we utterly destroyed their military, so it can't be that.

No, rather one major reason for our trouble is that the damage Saddam's totalitarian control did was more tremendous than we ever imagined. How did we miss this? Perhaps because our experience with Germany and Japan was misleading. Hitler had (thankfully) only been in control for 12 years, and the Japanese fascists did not try and destroy their society. Saddam and his Ba'athist party destroyed theirs.

Finally, in his closing comments, Gen. Kelly invited the reporters to come to Iraq and see for themselves

But I would just certainly welcome you, if you haven't been out here in a while or even if you have, to come on down to the province and see what's going on. I think it's, as I say, it's pretty enlightening to see how this thing is going in all the right directions right now. And for sure, the opportunity to talk to the local mayors and police chiefs, and get their opinion and their perspective on what's going on.

I hope that many take him up on it.


I promised that I'd have more to say about the resignation of Admiral Fallon, but I now think that I'll just link to a few articles that seem to sum up the situation.

"On Fallon Fallout", by Steve Schippert, at National Review
"Demagoguing Adm. Fallon's departure", the editors, The Washington Times

Posted by Tom at 11:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 10, 2008

Book Review - U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24

In a way this is the oddest "book" I have reviewed. For one, it's not really a book at all in the traditional sense, but more a manual, and a government publication at that. It's written for the soldier, marine, and to a lesser extent airman, yet is vital for civilians and policymakers. It's also freely available for download; a quick search in google and it yours free of charge (I purchased mine hardcopy from Amazon). Lastly, it's a government publication.

There is also no single author, and other than one appendix no one is given direct credit for any section.

The The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual (For the Army, it is referred to as "FM 3-24". For the Marines, "Warfighting Publication 3-33.5") was released on December 15, 2006, and has been the bible for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan during the "surge" of 2007. I should have read and reviewed this much earlier, but either hadn't heard of it, or when I did, didn't realize how invaluable it was to understanding our overall strategy in both wars. So now it's better late than never.

The bottom line is that if you want to know what we are trying to do in Iraq and Afghanistan you have to read this book. Period and end of conversation.

The genesis of FM 3-24 was the realization early in the Iraq insurgency that we had forgotten how to fight counterinsurgency warfare. We simply had no current counterinsurgency doctrine. The Army and Marine Corps had not seriously considered the matter since the 1980s campaign in El Salvador, and the last field manual on the subject was FM 90-8 Counterguerrila Operations, released on Aug 29, 1986. Once matters in Central America settled down, however, few Army or Marine Corps officers had spent much time studying the matter.

When we realized our error, the Army went to work to rectify the matter. On October 1, 2004, an interim counterinsurgency field manual was published, designated 3-07.22. However, serious work on a full-scale replacement did not begin until then Lt Gen David Petreaus returned from Iraq in October of 2005.

Petraus immediately assumed command of the Army's Combined Action Center and set out to gather the team that would turn out FM 3-24. To help lead the effort, he recruited one of his West Point classmates, Lt Col (Dr) Conrad Crane (ret). The authors of each chapter, however, are anonymous. At the end are several appendixes. Perhaps the most important, or at any rate the most influential, is one by Lt Col (Dr) David Kilcullen (the first, or "A" appendix), who would go on to become Gen Petraus's senior counterinsurgency adviser in 2007.

In the February 11, 2008, print edition of National Review, Wesley Morgan identified four interconnected efforts that led to the successes of 2007 (numbers added):

..1) The adoption of classic counterinsurgency tactics, with U.S. battalions spreading out among the population and earning their trust; 2) the grassroots reconciliation of many Sunni and some Shiite communities; and 3) a series of meticulously planned corps-level offensives across Baghdad and its surrounding areas. All of these efforts have hinged on one major change: 4) During 2007, every echelon of the U.S. command -- from the four-star headquarters down through the critical corps and division levels to the brigades and battalions in the field -- was closely integrated into a cohesive whole. Without this integration, none of the four efforts that have brought Iraq forward would have made much difference.

The adoption of #1, classic counterinsurgency tactics, was the direct result of FM 3-24.

Following are some of the excerpts from FM 3-24 which I believe are most relevant for understanding what we are trying to do in Iraq. I have omitted areas which are esoteric or get into minutia, such as the details of logistics and intelligence gathering.

As you will see, the book is laid out like a giant outline, with each paragraph is assigned a number.

In addition to the narrative, throughout the book are short stories about counterinsurgency warfare. They range from Napoleon's ill-fated occupation of Spain to the current war in Iraq. While most describe how counterinsurgents overcame obstacles to defeat insurgents, the one on the Chinese Civil War obviously ends with the communists winning. There are several stories about the Vietnam War, with some telling of our successes but of course some of our failures.

Chapter 1: Insurgency and Counterinsurgency

1-4 Long term success in COIN depends on the people taking charge of their own affairs and consenting to the government's rule. Achieving this goal requires the government to eliminate as many causes of the insurgency as possible.

1-85. Access to external resources and sanctuaries has always influenced the effectiveness of insurgencies. External support can provide political, psychological, and material resources that might otherwise be limited or unavailable. Such assistance does not need to come just from neighboring states; countries from outside the region seeking political or economic influence can also support insurgencies. Insurgencies may turn to transnational criminal elements for funding or use the Internet to create a support network among NGOs. Ethnic or religious communities in other states may also provide a form of external support and sanctuary, particularly for transnational insurgencies.

1-102. Counterinsurgents remain alert for signs of divisions within an insurgent movement. A series of successes by counterinsurgents or errors by insurgent leaders can cause some insurgents to question their cause or challenge their leaders. In addition, relations within an insurgency do not remain harmonious when factions form to vie for power. Rifts between insurgent leaders, if identified, can be exploited. Offering amnesty or a seemingly generous compromise can also cause divisions within an insurgency and present opportunities to split or weaken it.

1-113 LEGITIMACY IS THE MAIN OBJECTIVE. The primary objective of any COIN operation is to foster development of effective governance by a legitimate government.

1-131 SECURITY UNDER THE RULE OF LAW IS ESSENTIAL The cornerstone of any COIN effort is establishing security for the civilian populace. Without a secure environment, no permanent reforms can be implemented and disorder spreads.

Under the self described "Zen-like" "Paradoxes of Counterinsurgency" are the much quoted and commented upon paragraphs 1-149 through 1-153.

1-149 SOMETIMES, THE MORE YOU PROTECT YOUR FORCE, THE LESS SECURE YOU MAY BE. Ultimate success in COIN (counterinsurgency) 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...These practices endure access to the intelligence needed to drive operations. Following them reinforces the connections with the populace that help establish real legitimacy.

1-150 SOMETIMES, THE MORE FORCE IS USED, THE LESS EFFECTIVE IT IS Any use produces many effects, not all of which can be foreseen. The more force applied, the greater the chance of collateral damage and mistakes. Using substantial force also increases the opportunity for insurgent propaganda and to portray lethal military activities as brutal. In contrast, using force precisely and discriminately strengthens the rule of law the needs to be established. As note above, the key for counterinsurgents is knowing when more forces is needed - and when it might be counterproductive....

1-151 THE MORE SUCCESSFUL THE COUNTERINSURGENCY IS, THE LESS FORCE CAN BE USED AND THE MORE RISK MUST BE ACCEPTED This paradox is really a corollary to the previous one. As the level of insurgent violence drops, the requirements of international law and the expectations of the populace lead to a reduction in direct military actions by counterinsurgents.

1-152 SOMETIMES DOING NOTHING IS THE BEST REACTION Sometimes insurgents carry out a terrorist act or guerrilla raid with the primary purpose of enticing counterinsurgents to overreact, or at least to react in a way the the insurgents can exploit - for example, opening fire ion a crowd....

1-153 SOME OF THE BEST WEAPONS FOR COUNTERINSURGENTS DO NOT SHOOT. ...While security is essential to setting the stage for overall progress, lasting victory comes from a vibrant economy, political participation,and restored hope. Particularly after security has been achieved, dollars and ballots will have more important effects than bombs and bullets. There is a time when "money is ammunition." Depending on the state of the insurgency, therefore, Soldiers and Marines should prepart to execute many nonmilitary missions to support COIN efforts. Everyone has a role iin nation building, not just Department of State and civil affairs personnel.

1-154 THE HOST NATION DOING SOMETHING TOLERABLY IS NORMALLY BETTER THAN US DOING IT WELL. It is just as important to consider who performs an operation as to assess how well it is done. Where the United States is supporting a host nation, long-term success requires establishing viable HN leaders and institutions that can carry on without significant US support....

Chapter 2: Unity of Effort: Integrating Civilian and Military Activities

"Essential though it is, the military action is secondary to the political one, its primary purpose bieng to afford the political power enough freedom to work safely with the population" David Galula, Counterinsurgency Warfare, 1964

Chapter 3: Intelligence in Counterinsurgency

3-5 Insurgencies are local. They vary greatly in time and space. The insurgency one battalion faces will often be different from that faced by an adjacent battalion....

3-67 PHYSICAL SECURITY. During any period of instability, people's primary interest is physical security for them and their families. When HN (host nation) forces fail to provide security or threaten the security of civilians, the population is likely to seek security guarantees from insurgents, militias, or other armed groups. This situation can feed support for an insurgency.

3-79 ...Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of insurgencies; national insurgencies and resistance movements....

3-80 In a national insurgency, the conflict is between the government and one or more segments of the population. In this type of insurgency, insurgents seek to change the political system, take control of the government, or secede from the country.

3-81 In contracts, a resistance movement (sometimes called a liberation insurgency) occurs when insurgents seek to expel or overthrow what they consider a foreign or occupation government.

3-103 Terrorist tactics employ violence primarily against noncombatants....

3-104 Guerrilla tactics, in contrast, feature hit-and-run attacks by lightly armed groups. The primary targets are HN government activities, security forces, and other COIN elements.

3-108 An insurgency's structure often determines whether it is more effective to target enemy forces or enemy leaders. For instance, if an insurgent organization is hierarchical with few leaders, removing the leaders may greatly degrade the organization's capabilities. However, if the insurgent organization is non-hierarchical, targeting the leadership may not have much effect.

3-133 Counterinsurgents should not expect people to willingly provide information if insurgents have the ability to violently intimidate sources.

Chapter 5: Executing Counterinsurgency Operations

"It is a persistently methodical approach and steady pressure which will gradually wear the insurgent down. The government must not allow itself to be diverted either by counter-moves on the part of the insurgent or by the critics on its own side who will be seeking a simpler and quicker solution. There are no short-cuts and no gimmicks - Sir Robert Thompson, Defeating Communist Insurgency: The Lessons of Malaya and Vietnam, 1966

5-1 ...Successful counterinsurgents support or develop local institutions with legitimacy and the ability to provide basic services, economic opportunity, public order, and security.

5-4. Initially, COIN operations are similar to emergency first aid for the patient. The goal is to protect the population, break the insurgents' initiative and momentum, and set the conditions for further engagement. Limited offensive operations may be undertaken, but are complemented by stability operations focused on civil security. During this stage, friendly and enemy information needed to complete the common operational picture is collected and initial running estimates are developed. Counterinsurgents also begin shaping the information environment, including the expectations of the local populace.

5-5. The middle stage is characterized by efforts aimed at assisting the patient through long-term recovery or restoration of health--which in this case means achieving stability. Counterinsurgents are most active here, working aggressively along all logical lines of operations (LLOs). The desire in this stage is to develop and build resident capability and capacity in the HN government and security forces. As civil security is assured, focus expands to include governance, provision of essential services, and stimulation of economic development. Relationships with HN counterparts in the government and security forces and with the local populace are developed and strengthened. These relationships increase the flow of human and other types of intelligence. This intelligence facilitates measured offensive operations in conjunction with the HN security forces. The host nation increases its legitimacy through providing security, expanding effective governance, providing essential services, and achieving incremental success in meeting public expectations.

5-6. Stage three is characterized by the expansion of stability operations across contested regions, ideally using HN forces. The main goal for this stage is to transition responsibility for COIN operations to HN leadership. In this stage, the multinational force works with the host nation in an increasingly supporting role, turning over responsibility wherever and whenever appropriate. Quick reaction forces and fire support mcapabilities may still be needed in some areas, but more functions along all LLOs are performed by HN forces with the low-key assistance of multinational advisors. As the security, governing, and economic capacity of the host nation increases, the need for foreign assistance is reduced. At this stage, the host nation has established or reestablished the systems needed to provide effective and stable government that sustains the rule of law. The government secures its citizens continuously, sustains and builds legitimacy through effective governance, has effectively isolated the insurgency, and can manage and meet the expectations of the nation's entire population.

5-52 (known as the "oil spot theory") COIN efforts should begin by controlling key areas. Security and influence then spread out from secured areas. The pattern of this approach is to clear, hold, and build one village, area, or city - and then reinforce success by expanding to other areas.

5-69 To protect the populace, HN security forces continuously conduct patrols and use measured force against insurgent targets of opportunity. Contact with the people is critical to the local COIN effort's success.

Chapter 6: Developing Host Nation Security Forces

6-1 Success in counterinsurgency (COIN) operations requires establishing a legitimate government supported by the people and able to address the fundamental causes that insurgents use to gain support. Achieving these goals requires the host nation to defeat insurgents or render them irrelevant, upholding the rule of law, and provide a basic level os essential and security for the populace. Key to all these tasks is developing an effective host-nation (HN) security force.

6-6 U.S. and multinational forces may need to help the host nation improve security; however, insurgents can use the presence of foreign forces as a reason to question the HN government's legitimacy. A government reliant on foreign forces for internal security risks not being recognized as legitimate. While combat operations with significant U.S. and multinational participation may be necessary, U.S. combat operations are secondary to enabling the host nation's ability to provide for it's own security.

6-29 Training HN (host nation) security forces is a slow and painstaking process. It does not lend itself to a "quick fix".

Chapter 7: Leadership and Ethics for Counterinsurgency

7-7 ...Effective commanders know the people, topography, economy, history, and culture of their area of operations (AO). They know every village, road, field, population group, tribal leader, and ancient grievance within it...

7-8 Another part of analyzing a COIN (counterinsurgency) mission involves assuming responsibility for everyone in the AO. This means that leaders feel the pulse of the local populace, understand their motivations and care about what they want and need. Genuine compassion and empathy for the population provide an effective weapon against insurgents.

7-9 ...Therefore, military actions and words must be beyond reproach. The greatest challenge for leaders may be in setting an example for the local populace....It involves more than just killing insurgents; it includes the responsibility to serve as a moral compass....

7-11 ...Leaders do not allow subordinates to fall victim to the enormous pressures associated with protracted combat against elusive, unethical, and indiscriminate foes....

7-24 ...Counterinsurgents that use excessive force to limit short-term risk alienate the local populace. They deprive themselves of the support or tolerance of the people. This situation is what insurgents want....

Appendix A: A guide for Action

A-24 The first rule of COIN operations is to establish the force's presence in the AO (area of operations).... This requires living in the AO close to the populace. Raiding from remote, secure bases does not work.

A-26 Once the unit settles into the AO (Area of Operations), its next task is to build trusted networks. This is the true meaning of the phrase "hearts and minds," which comprises two separate components. "Hearts" means persuading people that their best interests are served by COIN success. "Minds" means convincing them that the force can protect them and that resisting it is pointless. Note that neither concerns whether people like Soldiers and Marines. Calculated self-interest, not emotion, is what counts. Over time, successful trusted networks grow like roots into the populace. They displace enemy networks, which forces enemies into the open, letting military forces seize the initiative and destroy the insurgents.
(more on this phrase here)

A-60 ...Whatever else is done, the focus must remain on gaining and maintaining the support of the population. With their support, victory is assured; without it, COIN efforts cannot succeed.


Small Wars Journal has a must-read post on the the evolution and importance of FM 3-24

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 8, 2008

Let's Not Jump to Conclusions

As a child I used to love Sherlock Holmes stories. When I grew up I enjoyed the British television series starring Jeremy Brett. Often, and the beginning of a case, Watson would ask Holmes who he thought did it. Holmes would sternly advise Watson that he never speculated. No evidence, no conclusion.

i likewise caution my conservative friends to avoid jumping to conclusions regarding the bombing this week of the Armed Forces Recruiting Center in Times Square.

It is certainly possible that a leftist anti-war extremist committed the attack. The motive for doing so is clear. And it's not as if military recruiting stations haven't been attacked, although not yet so violently. A bunch of leftists stormed and got inside one at 14th & L streets in Washington DC last month, and they bragged about it on DC Indymedia. The Berkeley CA Marine Corps Recruiting Station is under seige, and there are many more similar cases.

So yes, it would be logical for the police to consider the possibility that a leftist ani-war extremist did it. But that's hardly the only possibility.

Conservatives need to be careful and not jump to conclusions.

We've already seen that the anti-war letter sent to several members of Congress turn out not to have been related to the bombing. Yet when it was first announced that there was such a letter I saw many posts by people who seemed quite certain that it was all tied together.

It's possible that instead of a leftist, the bombing was committed by a right-wing militia member. The militia movement in the United States is larger than most people realize. In one of the less heralded accomplishments of law enforcement, the movement was largely defanged after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. But there are still a lot of militia members who hate our government and military every bit as much as the far left.

It's also possible that it was done by someone who had been denied entrance into the military for mental reasons and so decided to bomb the center.

It's possible that it was done by an ex-soldier who has a grudge against the military.

It's possible that it was done by someone with a personal grudge against one of the recruiters that has nothing do do with the military at all.

There are a whole universe of possibilities.

I think you'll all recall that it was initially assumed by many that the Oklahoma City bombing was committed by a Muslim truck bomber. There was certainly precedent for such an act, and if Timothy McVeigh had not been caught so quickly one would have expected the police to make Muslim extremists one area of inquiry. But one would have also expected them to pursue other possibilities, including the militia movement.

I'm not saying that a leftist anti-war extremist didn't do the bombing. I'm saying that those who jump to that conclusion before all of the facts are known run a serious risk of ending up with egg on their faces. That's all.

Posted by Tom at 11:34 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 6, 2008

Iraq Briefing - 04 March 2008 - State of the Iraqi Army

Today's briefing is by Lt Gen James Dubik, who is the commander of Multinational Security Transition Command - Iraq. He reports to Gen David Petraeus, commander of MNF-Iraq. MNSTC-I is responsible for "organizing, training, equipping and mentoring Iraqi security forces throughout the country." Gen Dubik has commanded MNSTC-I since June of 2007. Then Lt Gen Petraus held a similar position before he was brought back to the United States in October 2005 to lead the team that would write the new army's counterinsurgency field manual (FM 3-24)

This and other videos can be seen at DODvLINKS. The transcript is here.

Everyone knows that ultimately the Iraqi security forces are going to have to assume complete responsibility for their country. Today's briefing provides us insight into how ready they are.

Following are parts of the briefing and press Q & A that I found the most interesting, but be sure and view the video and the transcript in their entirety.

From the his opening statement:

I hope through most of your questions and answers to convince you that on some areas we're progressing very, very well, in other areas still have work to do. So the bottom line is a mixed picture.

Numbers count in this kind of war, as all of you know. Physical presence counts and the Iraqi security forces know that. They have grown in 2007 well over 100,000 in the army, air force, the navy, the police -- the national police, and most of that growth was in the period June of 2007 through December of 2007. For example, the army in 2007 grew by 60,000-plus, 42,000-plus in the last half of the year. The national police grew 8,000 in 2007, all of it in the last half of 2007. And the Iraqi police grew by about 45,000 -- a little bit less than 45,000 in 2007, 29,000 in the last half of 2007.

So the story of numbers is a pretty good picture. But numbers are necessary, but insufficient. It's quality also that we count, and there's several indicators here that are pretty significant. First, the percentage of boots on the ground in the second half of 2007 went from mid-60s to low 80s. This is a big shift in the number of people who are actually in the army, actually on the ground in their battalions in their battle space. Numbers of officers now in the aggregate is 73 percent of officer requirements are filled; 69 percent of NCOs are filled.

This is in the aggregate.

We do still have problems with distribution. In general, officers are -- too many in the lower ranks and too many in the higher ranks and not enough in between, and NCOs too many in the -- quite a few in the lower ranks but not enough in the higher ranks. But eight, nine months ago, the problem was insufficient leaders and now we're into a different problem.

There are two areas that I watch in terms of polls. We started polling Iraqis in their attitude toward their security forces last November, and in two important areas: the question "Do you disagree with the fact that the Iraqi security forces are corrupt?" There are many more people now, over 10 percent, who are disagreeing that that's correct. So they're having more confidence in their security forces, by their own measure.

...There is, as I said, huge progress in many areas, quality and quantity. But we're not free of difficulties.

We still have to finish the growth of the counterinsurgency force. We're going to focus in 2008 on developing a self-sustaining enabler without any loss of momentum in the aviation -- excuse me -- aviation field. The national police professionalization will continue through 2008 and 2009. The Iraqi police have to integrate the Sons of Iraq or concerned local citizens, as they were called, and the minister of Interior and government of Iraq are making plans to do that.

And we have difficulty overall with leaders. While we're at 70 -- 73 percent officers, 69 percent NCOs, we still want to grow beyond that, and police officers are also something that we're lagging behind. We grew the police force, as I said, by 40,000 last year, and we're lagging behind in police officers. We're working on a plan to do that, and I'll be happy to answer your questions about that.

The issue with the Sons of Iraq is that many or most of them are Sunni, and the government is Shia dominated. Because Saddam was a Sunni and they took the opportunity to lord it over the Shiites, there is much residual animosity. So the government mistrusts the Sunnis. As a result, and several government officials (maybe Maliki, I'm not sure) have expresssed concerns about the Sons of Iraq turning into a militia force and becoming a threat to the government. The Sunnis, on the other hand, believe that they are trying to secure their own country ("isn't that what you wanted?" they ask) and will be upset if the government does not recognize them.

i think the Sunnis have the better of the argument and leading US generals, such as Lt Gen Odierno, have said likewise.

The "difficulty with leaders" bit is likewise interesting. We have faced much difficulty with cultural issues in forming the new Iraqi security forces. On the one hand a cardinal rule (stated many times in Petraeus' Counterinsurgency Field Manual: FM 3-24) is that you don't build the host nation security forces in your image. On the other hand, the Iraqis are used to getting leadership posts on personal connections alone. They're not used to being fired just because you don't do your job. This is part of Clausewitz' "friction of war".

Q Sir, it's Kristin Roberts with Reuters. I'm hoping you can speak in a little bit more detail about the logistics and maintenance problems. I know that the focus has been for a long time on developing the combat forces or the maneuver forces. But has there been any progress in the Iraqis' ability to do their own logistics and maintenance, and what is the timeline, the time frame, for getting them up to speed?

GEN. DUBIK: Sure. Thanks Christine (sic/Kristin). Yeah, logistics, actually, is making some good progress. It will be until the end of this year until we're in a different logistics position, but you can already see here some of the changes. For example, in December the minister of defense had declared that his forces would go to self- sufficiency in life support -- food, primarily, and fuel. He's doing a very good job across the board in terms of feeding themselves, had a little bit of rocky start in December and January, but now that's pretty much smoothed out, and now he's working on the fueling issue. That will take a couple of months to get that ironed out, but that part of logistics is on track, and they're progressing. ...

I've watched many briefings and all of the commanders say the same thing; that the Iraqi security forces are making tremendous progress in combat capability but their logistics capabilities are lagging. Much of this, from what I can tell, is that the Iraqis are bad at bureaucracy and everything gets bogged down. You also have corruption and sectarian favoritism.

Q Sir, this is Joe Tabet with Al Hurra. Talking about the increase in numbers in the police and the army, what's the current size in terms of number of the Iraqi police and the Iraqi army? And what are your goals that you are looking to reach, you and the Iraqi government?

GEN. DUBIK: The Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior have set for themselves somewhere around 600,000 aggregate military and police as the force that would be large enough to maintain security in the country. And so that's where they're aiming, and they think that they should get to that point sometime around 2010. Right now, or as of the end of the year, the total number of people was about 531,000 -- 180(,000)-some in the military, 200(,000) and -- or, correction, 340,(000)-some in the police forces, and about 3,000 in the special operations forces. And they are on a growth path where they can sustain this size of force, both with money and with equipment.

You will know that in 2006, the government of Iraq has began paying more for their security forces than the Iraqi Security Force Fund contains. That trend continued in 2007 and again in 2008. So they're very cognizant of the size of force they believe they need, and they're very cognizant of the fact that they've got to spend -- put money in their budget to maintain this size of force.

Overall the general paints a pretty positive picture. No doubt he left out many of the problems and this time I'm disappointed that the questions weren't tougher. But then maybe there just wasn't much to criticize. All in all what he said was in line with much else that I've been reading. We're all disappointed that the whole thing is taking so much longer than was anticipated (all wars seem to) but I think this report shows that we are making progress and if current trends continue we can defeat the insurgency.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 5, 2008

Iraq Briefing - 04 March 2008 - Back from Iraq

Yesterday's briefing was at the Pentagon and was conducted by Lt Gen Ray Odierno.

This video and others can be viewed at DODvCLIPS. The transcript is here.

Lt Gen Odierno was until recently commander of Multi-National Corps-Iraq. The divisional commanders (major generals) reported to him. While in this position he reported to Gen Petraeus, commander of Multi-National Force-Iraq. Petraeus in turn reports to Admiral William Fallon, commander of CENTCOM, who then reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Odierno took command of MNC-Iraq on Dec 14, 1007, and on Feb 14 2008 was succeeded by Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III as part of normal rotation. Odierno has been nominated to become the Army's next vice chief of staff, a four star position. On a sadder note, his son, Army Capt. Anthony K. Odierno, lost his left arm in an August 2004 RPG attack in Iraq.

This was a relatively long briefing, and I encourage readers to view it in it's entirety. There were many more reporters than usual present, and most of the briefing consisted of Q & A. The questions were smart and tough, which is how it should be. Here are some of the parts that I found most interesting.

note that the quotes below are not in chronological order but are arranged topically.

GEN. ODIERNO: ...the situation in Iraq is now largely a communal struggle for power and resources. Both intra-Shi'a, intra-Sunni competition as well as external influences are at the center of issues facing the government of Iraq. Iraq is a complex country; there is no blanket solutions for the country.

The improved security conditions, in part from the surge of 2007, has given the Iraqis an opportunity to choose a better way. We can likely make some more progress in security, but the focus must shift to jobs and economic opportunity, making strides in governance both nationally and, just as important, locally, and a continued bettering of the Iraqi security forces, bolstering both their capacity and their ability to conduct independent operations.

There is a certain type of anti-war leftist who is convinced that all we do is "bomb villages", and that our generals are "Jack D. Ripper" types who only understand solving problems in terms of guns and bullets. Nothing, of course, could be farther from the truth.

2007 has been a year of success. Toward the end of the briefing Odierno explained what went right - and what might still go wrong.

Q General, could you talk a bit about the progress you achieved while you were there, specifically on the surge strategy...?

GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah, I would just say that there's several things that occurred. The surge enabled us to do some things. It enabled us to eliminate some safe havens and sanctuaries that had been established over time, specifically by al Qaeda and some other extremist elements.

So that's what the surge -- but just as important as the surge was the change in our tactics, techniques and procedures that got us back out in the neighborhoods and was -- and our mantra was protect the population, protect the citizens of Iraq. We were back in large bases. We would drive; we'd come out; we'd go in, come out. We moved back into the neighborhoods. We walked the ground; they knew who we were. You know, when I'd go out four, five times a week on patrol, what always amazed me, by the time I left, after we'd been out there six to eight months on the ground, is, they knew the names of the sergeants in the neighborhoods. They knew the captains. They knew who they were. There were relationships that were built.

The other thing that happened, that we probably didn't think through when we first did this, was, that gave us more brigades to partner with Iraqi units, which in my mind sped up their improvement, because there's no better way than to partner with them and do day-to- day operations with the Iraqi forces. And that is the best way for us to improve their capacity. And I think that's something we might not have thought through when we first said we were going to do the surge, but happened because of the plans that we put in place, specifically in Baghdad.

On insurgents coming back, I really believe that the Iraqis have hope now. And those that were involved in the insurgency have really decided that they want to be part of the legitimate government of Iraq and they are tired of the insurgency and they really want to move forward.

The only thing that could change that -- if there's some dramatic event that changed -- where they lose confidence in the government of Iraq and they believe that the government of Iraq is not there for them, and then you might see the reappearance of insurgency. If that does not happen, I believe they will not come back. There will be some groups of al Qaeda that try to do that. There will be some Iranian-supported extremists that try to do that. But we understand that, and I think that we'll go after that element -- piece of it.

Did you catch the part where he said he went out on patrols 4 or 5 times a week?

Many of the questions touched on the campaign

Q (Bob Burns with AP) General, you probably noticed since you got back we're having a campaign here in this country. (soft laughter) And there's been a lot of discussion of the future course in Iraq. And one of the major proposals put forth by one side is to withdraw the remaining brigades out of Iraq at a rate of about one or two brigades a month, getting to the point where you have no more combat brigades in Iraq within 16 months. I'm just wondering, when you hear proposals like that talked about in the campaign, how realistic is that? Is there a danger in going that far, do you think, what would happen?

GEN. ODIERNO: I think the answer -- you know, what I would say to whoever gets elected as the next president is, what we really need is assessments. We got to constantly do assessments. You know, 12 months ago nobody would have thought we're where we are now in Iraq. And so you have to do constant updates, assessments. You got to do evaluations. And then based on that, you got to make a decision on where we're going to move forward. And that's both from a military perspective, which will be given by General Petraeus and the leaders of Iraq and the chairman and the secretary of Defense, as well as policy decisions that they have to consider.

So that's all I think is appropriate, is that in fact they conduct these assessments and then make a decision on where we want to go in Iraq; and what are their goals in Iraq, what do they -- as their policy, what do they want to achieve. And we got to look at how we do that from a military and policy standpoint.

And later we had this exchange

Q Nonetheless, let's be clear. The Democrats are talking about mandated -- different ones, but mandated timelines for withdrawal from Iraq. The generals, the senior commanders are right now with the mission of assessments and conditions-based withdrawal. What is your feeling if it comes to the point of mandated withdrawals, whatever they may be, rather than conditions-based? Do you think that the senior commanders can adjust to that? Will they salute smartly and just say yes?

GEN. ODIERNO: Well, it depends on where we are, Barbara. I mean, it depends on where we are 10 months from now. I mean, that's what we're talking about, January of 2009. So it depends on where we are in Iraq in 10 months. At that time, if that's decided, we'll have to make an assessment to decide whether that's the right thing to do. And if it's not, it's our job to say, with the mission you've given me, can we accomplish this or not? And that's what they're going to have to do.

But to say anything about that now is premature, because 10 months from now, you know, I don't know what Iraq's going to be like.

Apparently, though, Senators Clinton and Obama can see into the future and know what the situation will be there in January of 2009. Either that or they're just playing to their far-left anti-war supporters who don't care about the situation but just want out.

Regarding the "assessments" that Odierno spoke about

Q Kimberly Dozier, CBS News. What are some of the markers you're looking for? You keep saying this wonderful word, "assessment." What does that mean? What do you need to see to bring troops down?

GEN. ODIERNO: Well, I mean, I think first it's the level of violence. It's the capacity of Iraqi security forces. It's the status of local, provincial, central governance and the relationship they have between each other. It's job development and economic development.

It's all of those things. And we have many factors that we have decided underneath each one of those that goes into those assessments.

Several times reporters wanted him to commit to a number of brigades that we should have in Iraq at a time in the future and each time he refused. I think this is the responsible route. It would be foolish to commit to a timetable. You have to look at the situation and take decisions based on what you see.

If you're not aware, we had about 15 brigades in Iraq before the "surge". During the first 6 months of 2007 we added (surged) 5 additional brigades into the country. The surge brigades are now coming home, and as Odierno said during the interview he "felt very comfortable going to 15 brigades" again when he left. However, "now I want to see what happens when we go to 15 brigades."

I know that there are those who say that this would somehow "force" the Iraqis to "step up to the plate." I think this is hopelessly simplistic thinking that fails to understand the complexity of the situation.

The visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came up

Q Joe Tabet with Al Hurra, sir. Yesterday the Iranian president, Ahmadinejad, was in Baghdad. From your experience, how do you see the Iranian role in Iraq, and do you think the Iranians are still helping and aiding the extremist militias in -- like al-Sadr militia in Iraq?

GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah, I would just say, first, Iran is a neighboring country of Iraq, so they've got to have relationships and they've got to continue to work those relationships. The issue I have is to make sure that that relationship is a helpful relationship. A lot was made yesterday of the fact that he was able to walk around and nothing happened. My comment is, I'm not surprised, because over the last 12 months, whenever a visitor would come from the United States, we'd either foil a rocket attack or the rocket attack happened.

Guess what? That's because there -- it was being done by Iranian surrogates. And when the government of Iraq holds a meeting, there tends to be rocket attacks. Why is that? Because it's done by Iranian surrogates.

As vice chief of staff (if confirmed) Odierno will move into a position where instead of being in command of combat units he will be responsible for what Clausewitz called "preparation for war"; training, equipping, manpower issues, and such. Essentially, it means getting the army ready for war. As such, there were several questions along those lines. Here's one of many

Q Sir, I want to go back to Peter's question. What is the metric -- what are the defining elements of trying to determine how much strain is being placed on the force, in trying to decide to move back from 15 months to 12 months? I mean, we keep hearing about this delicate balance; you know, we're trying to balance things between the needs on the ground and the needs of the force and the strain on the families. But is that a measurable sort of thing?

GEN. ODIERNO: Well, I think -- you know, ultimately what we're trying to do is get more time back between deployments. I mean, I think that's the thing we're looking at, is, you know, more time between deployments, ultimately. So I think that's what you're after.

You know, right now we're getting one-for-one basically, what we call if you're deployed for 12 or 15 months, you're home for 12 to 15 months. That's what we're trying to achieve. We'd like to make that larger, and we think if we can make that -- so if you're deployed for a year, you're back for two years; we're not there yet. We're not close to being there yet. But that's kind of the metric I think we want to look at. So we understand and try to at least put -- reduce some of the strain on the families, and that's what we're trying to do by raising the size of the Army, increasing the size of the Army, increase the size of brigades and also reducing the requirement as we have success.

I didn't watch as many of these press briefings back in 2003 - 2006 as I do now, but one thing you can't help but notice is that commanders do not make predictions as to the future. Rather, they talk about trends and risks. They tell the story of the successes of 2007, but caution that things could still go wrong.

Q General, you talked about things that have to happen in order to reach an irreducible level of violence. So what are the risks that you see that could turn this thing around and move it in the other direction?

GEN. ODIERNO: Well, I know there's probably something that I'm not thinking about. There always tends to be that one thing you're not thinking about that can happen.

But I worry about intra-Shi'a violence a bit. That could, you know, could spiral out of control. I feel comfortable with where we're at on that. I think we have a good plan to do that.

But that's something we have to -- external influences, Iran, you know, I worry about that a little bit. I think that is the long-term issue, and I think we have to be -- understand that.

So I think those are the kind of things and just what we call accelerants to violence. If there's some event that happens that would accelerate this sectarian tension that is there -- sectarian violence has really been significantly reduced. There's still some sectarian tension.

So what we don't want is that sectarian tension to turn back to violence. The more time we go without sectarian violence, the tension begins to reduce. And the change of that reduces. However there's still a risk in that sectarian tension.

So what we look for is, what are the events that could cause a rise in sectarian tension? You know, when they had the second Samarra mosque bombing, one of the things I learned is, because the Iraqi government came out very quickly and really went out to the population, it had very little effect at all on sectarian violence. That's the kind of thing that helps us mitigate the risk.

So as further away we get from it, the better chance we have of mitigating that. But those are the things I worry about.

Indeed there is much to worry about. But there is also much to be optimistic about. If current trends hold, we will defeat the insurgency. But we can't let up and we certainly shouldn't pull out troops before the situation on the ground allows for it.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 4, 2008

"Countering Global Insurgency"

In my effort to understand the nature of our struggle against Islamic extremists, I have investigated many thinkers and ideas, rejecting some and embracing others. Following are the ones that made the cut. Note please that far from being in competition with each other, each compliments the other. Each simply looks at a different aspect of the conflict.

War of Ideas: Dr Walid Phares says that our enemy are Jihadists of the Wahabbi, Muslim Brotherhood, and Khumeinist variety. While some of the fighting will be by nature military, it is primarily a war of ideology, and the winner will be the side that convinces young people that it's ideas are better than the other. Future Jihad and War of Ideas are his two most important recent books.

World War IV: Norman Podhoretz believes that our struggle is best termed World War IV. While I have not read his book of the same name, there is much about it on the Internet, including this article in Commentary Podhoretz believes that democratization is the best way to defeat the extremists.

The Power of Demographics All of the strategy and ideas in the world may not help us if radical Islam takes over Europe by producing more babies. This is the theme of Mark Steyn's America Alone.

Global Insurgency: Lt Col (Dr) David Kilcullen spent 20 years in the Australian Army. Throughout 2007 he was a senior advisor on counterterrorism to Gen David Petraeus. He is not a senior advisor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In his 2004 wor, Countering Global Insurgency, Kilcullen says that our enemy is best thought of as an insurgency, albeit on a global scale instead of just in one country.

In this post I will summarize and review this final way of looking at our global struggle.

Kilcullen's thesis is pretty straightforward

  • The 'War on Terrorism' is actually a campaign to counter a global Islamist insurgency. So counterinsurgency, not counterterrorism, may provide the best approach to the conflict.
  • But classical counterinsurgency is designed to defeat insurgency in one country. Hence, traditional counterinsurgency theory has limitations in this context. Therefore we need a new paradigm, capable of addressing a globalized insurgency.
  • Classical insurgency uses systems analysis, but traditional reductionist systems analysis cannot handle the complexity of insurgency. However, the emerging science of Complexity provides new tools for systems assessment - hence, complex systems analysis may provide new mental models for globalized counterinsurgency.
  • Complex adaptive systems modeling shows that the more global nature of the present Islamist jihad, and hence its dangerous character, derives from the links in the system - energy pathways that allow disparate groups to function in an aggregated fashion across intercontinental distances - rather than the elements themselves.
  • Therefore, countering global insurgency does not demand the destruction of every Islamist insurgent from the Philippines to Chechnya. Rather, it demands a strategy of disaggregation (de-linking or dismantling) to prevent the dispersed and disparate elements of the jihad movement from functioning as a global system. Applying this approach to the War generates a new and different range of policy options and strategic choices.

Kilcullen devotes a chapter of his paper to each of these topics, and each flows from the other. If one insists that we are simply fighting terrorists, for example, the rest of the paper makes no sense. Because of the importance of understanding the nature of our conflict, it is good that we spend some time here.

Al Qaeda, in the person of OBL's deputy Ayman al Zawahiri, issued a statement shortly after 9-11 that laid out a two-phase strategy. First, they would focus on the Middle East area. Their objective here was to force the U.S. to leave and then establish a new Caliphate based in Egypt. In phase 2 they would use the power of this new Caliphate as a launch pad for a jihad against the West. The objective here would be to establish Islam as the dominant force in the world.

Al Qaeda has a presence in at least 40 countries around the world. It is a global organization. However, it is not a monolithic or centrally directed organization, but rather functions through "theatres of operation". Organizations in each theatre "follow general ideological or strategic approaches" from the worldwide leadership.

The principle theatres in which al Qaeda and similar organizations are active are The Americas (they try to infiltrate the US from Canada and Mexico, and have a strong presence in the border areas of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil) Western Europe, the Iberian Peninsula (which organizationally separate from Western Europe), Australasia, and the Greater Middle East. East Africa, the Caucuses and European Russia, South and Central Asia, and Southeast Asia.

Al Qaeda maintains links with it's affiliated organizations through a variety of links. These links are ideological, linguistic, personal, family relationships, financial, propaganda, operational and planning, and doctrine techniques and procedures. Kilcullen ties it all together

What is new about today's environment is that, because of the links described above, a new class of regional, theatre-level actors has emerged. These groups do have links to the global jihad, often act as regional allies or affiliates of al Qaeda, and prey on local groups and issues to further the jihad. They also rely on supporting inputs from global players and might wither if their global sponsors were significantly disrupted.

Sitting above the theatre-level actors are global players like al Qaeda.

The relationship of al Qaeda to it's affiliated organizations, Kilcullen says, is one of patronage, or patrion-client authority. As such, it is similar to traditional Middle Eastern arrangements.

So why is all this best described as an insurgency and not a terrorist movement?

Insurgency can be defined as "a popular movement that seeks to overthrow the status quo through subversion, political activity, insurrection, armed conflict, and terrorism.

Conversely, Terrorism can be defined as "politically motivated violence against civilians, conducted with the intention to coerce through fear", and is in the tactical repertoire of virtually every insurgency. ...Terrorism is a component in almost all insurgencies, and insurgent objectives (that is, a desire to change the status quo through subversion and violence) lie behind almost all non-state terrorism.

By this definition, the global jihad is clearly an insurgency...." Terrorism is a tactic within an insurgency.

The jihad is, therefore, a global insurgency. Al Qaeda and similar groups feed on local grievances, integrate them into broader ideologies..." The objective being the restoration of the Caliphate and to subdue the West.

Terrorist groups of the 1970s; the Japanese Red Army, the IRA, the Baader-Meinhof gang and Red Brigades, were independent groups and there was little link between them and any global movement. Few of them (except the IRA) had any coherent objectives.

Terrorists were therefore thought of as criminals. In our current war, this has been the way many think of it. For example, many people fixate on the failure to find OBL, as if we were fighting a criminal enterprise.

The insurgency paradigm is quite different. Under this approach, insurgents are regarded as representative of deeper issues or grievances within society. Governments seek to defeat insurgents primarily by winning the "hearts and minds" of the broader population, a process that by necessity often involves compromise and negotiation....In this paradigm, insurgency is a whole-of-government problem rather than a military or law-enforcement issue. Based on this, we adopt a strategy-based approach to counterinsurgency, rather than to "apprehend the perpetrators" of specific acts.

How does all this tie into the war in Iraq, as well as the various "rogue states" around the world?

Indeed, current actions in the War on Terrorism appear disparate if viewed through a terrorism paradigm. Some (like international law enforcement cooperation to counter terrorist financing) fit the terrorism paradigm neatly, while others (the Iraq War, counter-proliferation initiatives, building influence in Central Asia, containment of North Korea and Iran) appear unrelated to an anti-terrorism agenda and are thus viewed with suspicion by some. However, if viewed through the lens of counterinsurgency, these actions make perfect sense.

So those who insist that Iraq has nothing to do with 9-11, or that it is a "distraction" from "getting bin Laden" misunderstand the nature of our conflict. We are not fighting terrorists. We are fighting something much more serious and lethel; a global insurgency.

To be sure, it would be nice if we could kill Osama bin Laden. The question, though, is not "should we get him", but "is it worth the resources required to do so?" If ,as seems conventional wisdom, he is in the Waziristan province(s) of Pakistan, it would be very difficult to get him. There are tremendous logistical difficulties in just getting there, and we could roam the countryside for years losing hundreds of Americans to no avail. Oh and it would involve invading Pakistan with not a single country backing us.

Further, if Kilcullen is right, killing bin Laden would have no more effect on defeating the global insurgency than the death of Ho Chi Minh in 1968 had in ending the Vietnam War. We saw in Iraq that the insurgency got worse after we killed AQI leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi in June of 2006. It was only after surging troops and adopting a true counterinsurgency doctrine that we began to turn the tide. So it would probably be if we killed bin Laden.

In the rest of his paper Kilcullen goes on to discuss how traditional systems analysis might work if the insurgency was confined to one country (though even with Vietnam it broke down), it certainly will not do for one that is global. He then goes into how the "emerging science of Complexity" might hold the key.

It all gets a bit esoteric and above my head. I encourage readers who have gotten this far to download the paper and digest it as best you can. I think that Kilcullen is on the right path here. He correctly identifies the enemy as "jihadists" and not simply terrorists, and recognizes that they are not some small band hiding in the mountains waiting for another opportunity to hijack another airplane. If you don't understand the nature of the enemy, you won't get the nature of the war, and you'll certainly never get the solution right.

Posted by Tom at 8:50 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 3, 2008

"The Patton of Counterinsurgency"

Over the past year I've followed events in Iraq closer than ever. I watched numerous press briefings at The PentagonChannel and DODvCLIPS. I read article after article. And one man who stood out to me as exceptional was Lt Gen Ray Odierno.


Lt Gen Odierno was until recently commander of Multi-National Corps-Iraq. The divisional commanders (major generals) reported to him. While in this position he reported to Gen Petraeus, commander of Multi-National Force-Iraq. Petraeus in turn reports to Admiral William Fallon, commander of CENTCOM, who then reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Odierno took command of MNC-Iraq on Dec 14, 1007, and on Feb 14 2008 was succeeded by Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III as part of normal rotation. Odierno has been nominated to become the Army's next vice chief of staff, a four star position. On a sadder note, his son, Army Capt. Anthony K. Odierno, lost his left arm in an August 2004 RPG attack in Iraq.

General Odierno doesn't get nearly the press that Gen Petraeus does, which given the situation is perfectly understandable. But it is unfortunate, because he has been as instrumental in developing the change in strategy that has led to the successes of 2007.

But I am not the one best qualified to write about Odierno and his contributions. Last week rederick W. Kagan and Kimberly Kagan (yes they're married) wrote an article that appeared in The Weekly Standard that you need to read in its entirety. Following are some excerpts from their piece, "The Patton of Counterinsurgency: With a sequence of brilliant offensives, Raymond Odierno adapted the Petraeus doctrine into a successful operational art"

Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno took command of Multi-National Corps-Iraq (MNC-I) on December 14, 2006. Iraq was in flames. Insurgents and death squads were killing 3,000 civilians a month. Coalition forces were sustaining more than 1,200 attacks per week. Operation Together Forward II, the 2006 campaign to clear Baghdad's most violent neighborhoods and hold them with Iraqi Security Forces, had been suspended because violence elsewhere in the capital was rising steeply. Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) owned safe havens within and around Baghdad, throughout Anbar, and in Diyala, Salah-ad-Din, and Ninewa provinces. The Iraqi government was completely paralyzed.

When General Odierno relinquished command of MNC-I on February 14, 2008, the civil war was over. Civilian casualties were down 60 percent, as were weekly attacks. AQI had been driven from its safe havens in and around Baghdad and throughout Anbar and Diyala and was attempting to reconstitute for a "last stand" in Mosul--with Coalition and Iraqi forces in pursuit. The Council of Representatives passed laws addressing de-Baathification, amnesty, provincial powers, and setting a date for provincial elections. The situation in Iraq had been utterly transformed.

As is well known, General Petraeus oversaw the writing of a new counterinsurgency doctrine before being sent to Iraq. But the doctrine did not provide a great deal of detail about how to plan and conduct such operations across a theater as large as Iraq. It was Odierno who creatively adapted sophisticated concepts from conventional fighting to the problems in Iraq, filling gaps in the counterinsurgency doctrine and making the overall effort successful.

The Kagans then discuss our unsuccessful strategies of the past. We kept our forces on 5 large bases, and sent them out on raids. Our hope was that by targeting insurgent leaders and their safe houses we could disrupt their networks. We also tried to build up the Iraqi armed forces, hoping that they would be the ones to ultimately secure neighborhoods.

According to this approach, the killing of AQI leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi in June 2006 should have disrupted the al Qaeda network severely. But AQI rapidly regrouped after Zarqawi's death under a successor, Abu Ayyub al Masri. The American counterterrorism approach disrupted the network but did not eliminate it. AQI's ability to generate violence in Baghdad through its signature vehicle bombs actually increased in the months after Zarqawi's death, as did civilian casualties and Shia retaliatory attacks. The entire cycle of violence that attacks on the terrorist network were supposed to bring under control actually ramped up.

This is exactly why I don't think that killing Osama bin Laden would make that much difference either. I've got a lot more to say about this in a post I hope to have up tomorrow or Wednesday, so stay tuned.

Just as Odierno took command, Coalition forces captured an AQI map depicting Baghdad as the center of the fight. AQI's main focus in 2006 was establishing safe havens in West Baghdad. The rise in power and ferocity of the Shia militias, however, forced them to establish bases outside of the capital from which to attack both Coalition forces and their Shia opponents. The map showed how AQI had divided the areas around the capital into regions, how it used these suburban safe havens (in Baghdad's "belts") as part of a complex system for moving weapons into the city, and how it carried the fight south of Baghdad.

AQI's approach--and Odierno's new understanding of it--made traditional military concepts like lines-of-communication, support areas, and key terrain relevant to the counterinsurgency strategy. Insurgents moving from the belts to the capital required access to particular roads. Maintaining that access required holding neighborhoods bordering the roads. Car-bombers needed factories in which to make their weapons. IED-users needed ammunition stores and ways of moving their IEDs from depots to frontline fighters. Leaders needed safehouses to allow their free movement in the city and headquarters outside the capital from which they could direct operations. Thinking of the enemy as a network, as U.S. forces had previously been doing, underemphasized the importance of geography and of controlling key terrain to the enemy's operations. Odierno prepared to take that terrain away.

Then came the part that surprised me

Given the enemy's situation in Iraq, Odierno knew he would need more troops to make the counterinsurgency doctrine operational. He asked for them in December 2006, and President Bush announced the "surge" in January 2007.

I'd never known exactly who it was who initiated the request for additional troops. Now I do.

There is a lot more to the article and it's more than i can or should quote here. The Kagans get detailed on the various operations Odierno designed and implemented, and all I really say is that you need to go and read the whole thing. The Kagans conclude that

Ray Odierno did not win the Iraq war--indeed, the war is still very much ongoing and victory is by no means assured. (And both he and Petraeus would insist on giving any recognition to their staffs and to the men and women of the American armed forces.) The narrative of Iraq's transformation on Odierno's watch lends itself easily to a triumphal presentation that would be utterly inappropriate. ...

Odierno's tenure as commander of Multi-National Corps-Iraq was an astonishing period in American military history, and his contribution deserves note as he and his staff return home to new postings. Their efforts showed that there is a need even in sophisticated counterinsurgency theory for skillful combat operations, that traditional ways of thinking about war can be appropriately adapted to novel circumstances, and that it is possible to be a warrior, nation-builder, mediator, diplomat, economist, and role-model all at once. At least, it is possible for heroes like Ray Odierno and the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and civilians he commanded for 15 months at one of the most critical junctures in recent American history.

DItto that.

Frederick W. Kagan, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of The End of the Old Order: Napoleon and Europe, 1801-1805. Kimberly Kagan, the president of the Institute for the Study of War, is the author of The Eye of Command. Her reports and analysis of the Iraq war are available at www.understandingwar.org.


Most recent at top

LtGen Odierno Interview - Explanation of the Surge and What is to Come
Iraq Briefing - 17 January 2008 - LTG Ray Odierno
Lt. Gen. Odierno's Nov 1 News Briefing
Lt Gen Odierno discuses Operation Phantom Strike
A Tale of Two Generals


I just realized that I left out the part of the article in which the Kagans explained why they thought Lt Gen Ray Odierno was equivalent to General George S Patton. I suppose most readers know, but if you're not then Odierno is to Petraeus what Patton was to Eisenhower; the guy who put the top general's vison into action.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 1, 2008

Iraq Briefing - 22 Feb 2008 - "We are Living with the Population"

In this briefing, Col Tom James gave one of the most powerful presentations I have heard about our strategy in Iraq and why it is working.

Col James is the Commander of the 4th Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, and spoke via satellite Friday Feb 22 to reporters at the Pentagon. Col James provided an update on the situation in his AOR (area of responsibility). His unit took over the AOR from 4-25 Infantry on December 1, 2007. In his words, "encompasses North Babil province and stretches from the Euphrates River Valley in the West to the Tigris River Valley in the East. Our area spans just over 40,000 square kilometers, an area roughly the size of Switzerland, and contains approximately 625,000 Iraqis."

The 3rd Infantry Division is commanded by Maj Gen Rick Lynch. Lynch reports to the new commander of MNC-Iraq, Lt Gen Lloyd Austin, who in turn reports to the commander of MNF-Iraq, Gen David Petraeus.

(note that while the video expires from the PentagonChannel website after a month or so, it can still be viewed at DODvCLIPS)

The transcript for this briefing is here.

What makes this briefing particularly interesting is that Col James provides a clear and concise explanation of several important aspects of our counterinsurgency strategy. This strategy was first published in December of 2006 in the US Army Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24. Then Lt Gen David Petraeus led the team which publicized FM 3-24. What I will do is tie what Col James says to instructions in the field manual. Note that I have organized what follows topically; the quotes do not necessarily follow each other chronologically as they occurred during the briefing.

COL. JAMES: Our mission is to secure the population, interdict accelerants moving towards Baghdad, defeat extremists and neutralize resistance groups, primarily focused on defeating sectarian violence, and build capacity of the Iraqi security forces, government institutions and economic programs. And our last task is focused on transitioning security and local development tasks to the Iraqi security forces and local governments.

The current security situation is stable, and I am optimistic about the future. Sunni extremists are severely disrupted. They no longer find sanctuary and support from the population. We attribute the current security situation to three major reasons; reason number one, our COIN(counterinsurgency) strategy adjustment and the surge deployment; reason number two, Iraqi security force capabilities have incredibly increased, or extremely increased; and the third is the Sons of Iraq program and the population standing up to defend their neighborhoods.

I'll expand on each of these three reasons for a second. First, we are living with the population. The five-brigade surge gave coalition forces the resources required to concentrate combat power in extremist-dominated areas. They allowed us to occupy key terrain in these areas to avoid enemy reoccupation.

Here are the relevant sections from U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24. In 2006-7 then Lt Gen David Petraeus led the team that produced this manual. It is basically the instruction book for our troops in Iraq

A-24 The first rule of COIN operations is to establish the force's presence in the AO (area of operations).... This requires living in the AO close tot he populace. Raiding from remote, secure bases does not work.

FM 3-24 1-131 SECURITY UNDER THE RULE OF LAW IS ESSENTIAL The cornerstone of any COIN effort is establishing security for the civilian populace. Without a secure environment, no permanent reforms can be implemented and disorder spreads.

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 much be conducted, risk shared with the populace, and contact maintained.... Following (these practices) reinforces the connection with the populace that help establish real legitimacy.

3-67 PHYSICAL SECURITY. During any period of instability, people's primary interest is physical security for them and their families. When HN (host nation) forces fail to provide security or threaten the security of civilians, the population is likely to seek security guarantees from insurgents, militias, or other armed groups. This situation can feed support for an insurgency.

Me: A bit of history is needed here. Our strategy from the beginning of the insurgency to the end of 2006 was three fold: One, keep most of our troops in 5 large bases, and send them out on targeted raids. Two, concentrate on building up the Iraqi government and economy. Three, build Iraqi security forces in the hope that we could build them up faster than the insurgents could take over areas of the country. While the second goal was correct, one and three were misguided and ultimately failed. We forgot that classic counterinsurgency doctrine was to secure the population first, and the only way you could do that was to live among them. As Wesley Morgan wrote in the Feb 11 2008 print edition of National Review, "Classic counterinsurgency doctrine, long forgotten by U.S. military institutions, makes clear that while raids have their place, they cannot be the major focus if any kind of sustained progress is to be expected. The center of gravity in counterinsurgency operations is the population, not the enemy, and the objective is the population's security, not the destruction of the insurgents - an impossible goal."

Why didn't we do this earlier? Morgan says that prior to the surge "force levels available in Iraq dictated the strategy, rather than the strategy dictating the force levels." I'm not totally sure of this means that previous commanders of MNF-Iraq, LtGen Sanchez and Gen Casey, simply didn't ask for more troops, if they asked and were denied, or didn't ask because they knew they wouldn't get them. Ultimately, responsibility for failure resides with them, past CENTCOM commander Gen John Abizaid, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and ultimately President Bush.

But by the same token, simply having sent more troops without a new doctrine to guide them would have been fruitless also. It was a combination of more troops, the proper application of counterinsurgency doctrine, corps-level operations, and the various "awakenings", or reconciliations, that have turned the situation around.

COL. JAMES: Secondly, the Iraqi security force has proven -- is improved significantly. The difference between their capacity during my last deployment and now is truly amazing. We partner with four Iraqi army brigades, two Iraqi army battalions and, as well, 15 police headquarters. Most of these organizations are capable of processing intelligence and executing precise independent operations. We still have some equipment issues, but we continue to work this hard, and I see positive momentum in this area....

Q Sir, it's Mike Mount with CNN, and I suppose I'll ask this kind of obvious question that always gets asked of you folks. You had mentioned that the surge troops were part of one of the elements that is kind of keeping security in the area. What would happen, do you think, if surge troops in your area are pulled out? Do you think the security forces there are strong enough, and the Sons of Iraq are strong enough to hold? Or are the surge troops a really strong, key element in your area?

COL. JAMES: Good question, Mike, and that is a question that we often receive, and it's a good one.

As you think about the security forces, as they've developed over time, we have focused on the surge force coming in and buying time.

It's a bridging strategy to allow the Iraqi security forces and government to develop over time, while concurrent with that, we reduce the capability of the enemy force. And I've seen just in my short period of time here that that has been extremely successful.

6-29 Training HN (host nation) security forces is a slow and painstaking process. It does not lend itself to a "quick fix".

FM 3-24 THE HOST NATION DOING SOMETHING TOLERABLY IS NORMALLY BETTER THAN US DOING IT WELL. It is just as important to consider who performs an operation as to assess how well it is done. Where the United States is supporting a host nation, long-term success requires establishing viable HN leaders and institutions that can carry on without significant US support.

6-1 Success in counterinsurgency (COIN) operations requires establishing a legitimate government supported by the people and able to address the fundamental causes that insurgents use to gain support. Achieving these goals requires the host nation to defeat insurgents or render them irrelevant, upholding the rule of law, and provide a basic level os essential and security for the populace. Key to all these tasks is developing an effective host-nation (HN) security force.

COL. JAMES: Thirdly, the Iraqi population is tired of their families being terrorized by extremists and have stepped up to secure their neighborhoods.

1-4 Long term success in COIN depends on the people taking charge of their own affairs and consenting to the government's rule. Achieving this goal requires the government to eliminate as many causes of the insurgency as possible.

COL. JAMES: ...With the security window opened, we continue the exploitation phase, focused on governance and economics. We have an embedded reconstruction team resourced with governance and economics experts. Mr. Van Franken (sp), our EPRT leader, has a team, and as his team is an essential part of our brigade combat team, we include them in all operational planning and execution.

Under economics, they focus on developing small businesses, agricultural associations, poultry and fish farms and reconstruction projects. Under governance, they focus on local governance training, governance linkages and beladiya assistance, which are the public works and the essential services for the people.

FM 3-24 7-7 ...Effective commanders know the people, topography, economy, history, and culture of their area of operations (AO). They know every village, road, field, population group, tribal leader, and ancient grievance within it...

7-8 Another part of analyzing a COIN (counterinsurgency) mission involves assuming responsibility for everyone in the AO. This means that leaders feel the pulse of the local populace, understand their motivations and care about what they want and need. Genuine compassion and empathy for the population provide an effective weapon against insurgents.

COL. JAMES: But the three things that I see as very important is, the opportunity exists because of very competent Iraqi security forces, both Iraqi army and Iraqi police. We have a population in our AO that is hungry for freedom, and you can see that in their eyes as they stand point as part of the Son of Iraq. Or you see a family member, be it a mother or a daughter, walking to market. You can see all the activity.

Right now we're in the middle of the Arba'een festival time period, and you can see their women and children walking down these highways to that celebration.

FM 3-24 quote from Sir Robert Thompson, Defeating Communist Insurgency: The Lessons of Malaya and Vietnam, 1966 "Much can be learnt merely from the faces of the population in villages that are subject to clear-and-hold operations, if these are visited at regular intervals. Faces which at first are resigned and apathetic, or even sullen, six months or a year later are full of cheerful welcoming smiles. The people know who is winning."

Me: We're getting there, but we're not there yet. This is going to take time, but we're on the right track. Lt Gen Odierno laid it out well in an interview on Feb 14 in which he said that the key now was that political progress at the top and bottom need to meet in the middle. Progress, I think, is being made. It's in fits, in starts and stops, but it's moving. Like Bismark said, democracy is like making sausage; while the result might be good the process is ugly viewed up close. Lt Col T.E Lawrence ("of Arabia" also had it right when he said that "War upon rebellion is messy and slow, like eating soup with a knife." It can be done, but it's not easy and takes time. Iraq won't be won dramatically World War II style, it'll be won one step at a time, and when it's over you will barely notice it.

Posted by Tom at 2:40 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack