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April 5, 2008

Iraq Briefing - 03 April 2008 - "The Conversation Has Changed"

This briefing is by Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of Multi-National Division - Central. the 3rd Infantry Division, also known as Task Force Marne. "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. MND-Center is headquartered by the 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Stewart, Georgia."

Maj. Gen. 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.

The 3rd ID is probably nearing the end of it's deployment in Iraq, having been there since February 2007.

This video and more like it can be viewed at DODvClips. You can download the transcript here

Here's why Gen Lynch says that "the conversation has changed:"

From his opening statement:

MAJ GEN LYNCH: The first element of that progress was the surge forces gave us the opportunity to take the fight to the enemy. The second piece, and you'll see that in the tri-fold that you have, was that we changed our procedures. We focused on securing the population. And as a result of that, we needed to live with the population so we have built 57 patrol bases. And those 57 patrol bases, 25 of which are occupied by the Iraqi security forces as well, were with the population. So in general terms, 75% of my soldiers live with the population. Those patrol bases went to places that the enemy owned. We did these major operations and as a result of every operation, we now own the terrain and we could build the patrol base to help us secure the population. And what we have found is the local population, as a result of seeing the patrol base, come forward and they ask two questions. The first question is, "Are you staying?" And when the local population's convinced that we're going to stay, the next question is, "How can we help?" And as a result of that second question, what we have now in Multi-National Division - Center is almost 36,000 Concerned Local Citizens, the Sons of Iraq, who are securing their respective areas. We've always defined sustainable security as locals under positive control, securing their population. And that is what has happened across our area....

What had happened over the last 13 months is the conversation had changed. Early, with major attacks taking place, I'd find myself on patrol bases planning major operations, kinetic operations. What happened about the fall timeframe, based on the things I just talked about, the conversation changed. And after the first of the year, I was able to publish a new order that focused on capacity building. Now when I go to patrol bases, like today I went to one of my patrol bases, I immediately leave the patrol base and go visit with the population and talk to the people. Today it was in the Jezurdiyala[ph] area. Yesterday it was in Musayyib. And the conversation now has changed. It's no longer about security, it's about jobs. It's about capacity. It's about the economy. It's about local governance. And that's exactly where we were all the up until the 25th of March.

This is important because it shows how Gen Lynch has adopted classic counterinsurgency tactics. The "surge" was about a lot more than sending additional troops. Prior to Petraeus/Odierno, we concentrated our forces in 5 large bases, and sent them out on raids. While it may seem that this approach might better protect our troops, in reality it does not. The only way to win against insurgents is to protect the people, and the only way to do that is to live among them. To be fair to previous commanders, they didn't have the troops to send troops out to live among the populace. Prior to 2007 we were caught in a vicious cycle.

From The U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24

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 populate, 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.

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.

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.

Once security is established, the next step is to improve the well being of the people. Again, FM 3-24

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

Insurgents exploit local grievances on various issues, and use them to try and win the support of the population. There is much in FM 3-24 about taking these grievances away from the insurgents.

So as we know, then, there was a spike in insurgent attacks on March 25. Gen Lynch explains

Now you can see in your graphics (see video for graphs. I am trying to obtain the charts) and you can see on this chart, there was a major spike of attacks coincidental with the operations in Basra and Baghdad. We've always said that inside of Iraq there are three types of enemy: Sunni extremists, Shi'a extremists, and then marked Iranian influence. And we've been fighting those three types of enemy as long as we've been here. We've had great effect against the Sunni extremists primarily because of the things that I talked to you about already. We truly have the Sunni extremists either killed or captured or have left our area or have gone to ground....

Now I'll show you exactly what happened. You can see that there are major Shi'a population centers across my area of operation and they are reflected on your graphic with these squares. What we had were attacks in those Shi'a population areas generated by Shi'a extremists....

In that period of time, 25 to 30 March, in MND-C's area, we experienced about 78 attacks all across the area. And the high on any one day was 28 attacks. Over the last four days now, we have reverted to the normal level of attacks. Yesterday we had one attack. The day before we had no attacks. When I left my headquarters today, there were no attacks across our entire operating environment which, again, is Mahmudiyah qaddah, Mada'in qaddah, Karbala, Najaf, Babil, and Wasit province. But in that period of time, 25 to 30 March, there were, indeed, attacks and a lot of those attacks took place in Wasit province in Al Kut

Now what I saw was I saw a tactical and an operational opportunity. Remember, three types of enemy: Sunni extremist, Shi'a extremist, and marked Iranian influence. And when the attacks increased, what happened is the Shi'a extremists in my area that we were having problems finding, came out of their holes. And as a result of them coming forward to conduct attacks against the Iraqi security forces, the Iraqi people, and the coalition forces, we could then take the fight to them.....

What happened over that six-day period of time, the local citizens came forward and showed us where the enemy was storing their ammunition and these weapons caches

Spin or no? Yes in that it would have been better if we had been able to get the Shia extremists without going through the attacks. No in that the nature of counterinsurgency is such that it's hard to identify the enemy unless he acts.

On to the Q & A. Some of the questions were tough, as they should be:

REP1: Yup. First question is you talk about this huge spike of activity and then completely back to where you were before. Doesn't that just show the power of Muqtada al-Sadr that when he issues the order, everything stops?

MAJ GEN LYNCH: Well, it shows three things. You know one is we were glad that Muqtada al-Sadr issued an order and the conventional Jaish al-Mahdi forces laid down their arms. We were happy about that. That had an affect and we're happy about that. The second thing that happened in my area is we took a lot of the enemy away. You can't do attacks if you are detained or killed. And we took a lot of their munitions away. So it's a combination of those three things.

Surely the reporter didn't expect a straight out yes or no. I think the answer is a qualified "yes".

REP8: Tina Susman from The LA Times. In terms of reconciliation in general, you know you say you can't reconcile with your friends, but would you say that there's been, on the Government of Iraq level, reconciliation with--solid reconciliation with anybody at this point? How satisfied are you with the process of government reconciliation?

MAJ GEN LYNCH: Sure. Nothing ever happens as quickly as you'd like. All of us would like to see all this reconciliation happen overnight. As a result of that, everybody stops shooting and everybody works toward a prosperous Iraq. So it doesn't happen as quickly as you'd like. The reconciliation that I see, Tina, on a daily basis, I find to be most encouraging.

Lynch went on to give several examples. Reconciliation is discussed in FM 3-24, and I have heard Lt Gen Ray Odierno (former commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq) discuss this also.

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.

Oh, and as for the benchmarks? 12 of 18 have been met. As Frederick Kagan points out over at The Weekly Standard, "including four
out of the six key legislative benchmarks. It has made substantial progress on five more, and only one remains truly stalled." If that's not progress then I don't know what is.

Iran in Iraq

Iran is active in Iraq supplying parts of the insurgency with weapons and training. First from his opening statement and then some Q & A

MAJ GEN LYNCH: On one cache was 106 AK-47s, small weapons, 9 sniper rifles. You can see that on the 28th of March, a large cache that included 18 complete explosively-formed penetrators. These explosively-formed penetrators are killing my soldiers, killing the Iraqi security force soldiers, killing innocent Iraqi civilians, and are traced back to Iran....

Okay, this will scroll through the caches that we found. You can see rockets. You can see EFPs--that's an explosively-formed penetrator already rigged to be placed against one of our soldiers. You can see Katyusha rockets there - supplied, again, by Iran....

Many rounds, ammunitions, detonating cord. You can see that is a Katyusha rocket, an Iranian rocket, that's rigged--that's on a rail and is rigged to explode--to launch....

These Iranian munitions, placed in the hands of the Shi'a extremists, are causing devastating affects on Iraqi security forces, on the coalition forces, and your innocent Iraqi people. And that just has to stop....

So clearly there are Iranian weapons coming into Iraq. We've never actually intercepted any at the border, though, and this is sometimes used by cynics as "proof", or at least evidence, of another "Bush Lied!" conspiracy.

Blogger and independent reporter Michael Yon took a trip to the border and found out exactly why nothing has been intercepted; because it's a superhighway of commerce between the two countries. There is simply no way anyone could inspect every truck, so it 's easy to smuggle in weapons. After observing the situation Yon concluded that "we could probably put the entire Coalition on the Iraq-Iran border, and the area would not be sealed."

REP9: Abigail Housliner[ph]. Time Magazine. If you are practicing this aggressive outreach to anyone you said, if there is this significant Iranian influence in the south, then presumably that aggressive outreach - for something to really make a difference - you would have to talk to Iran. Do you feel that that's limiting you significantly? Do you think that's going to limit your progress if Iran is playing such a huge role and you can't negotiate with them and reach out to them in the same way that you are reaching out to people on the local level?

MAJ GEN LYNCH: I'm convinced that there are people reaching out to the Government of Iran. I'm convinced of that. And these are people from the Government of Iraq who ought to be legitimately negotiating with their neighbors. Remember, we've always said that the end state in Iraq is an Iraq that is at peace with its neighbors, is an ally in the war on terror, that has a representative government that respects the rights of all Iraqis, has a security force that can maintain domestic order and deny Iraq as a safe haven for terrorists. So the negotiations with neighboring countries ought to be happening by the Government of Iraq; and I believe that is, indeed, happening. I do know that there are overtures on the part of Iran that try to be helpful. But I can just tell you at my level, at my level, I'm still seeing Iranian munitions. At my level, I'm still attending memorial services for my soldiers who were killed by Iranian munitions. So all that has to stop.

REP9: Would you like to see the U.S. reach out - U.S. forces - in the way that you have worked with the Awakening Groups?

MAJ GEN LYNCH: Well, I believe it's important to have a dialog, an open dialog with all the actors to see what we can do to facilitate moving towards that end state in Iraq that I just described.

One wonders what exactly we say to the Iranian representatives and how they respond. So far I haven't seen any good information on this so if commenters have something it would be most appreciated.

Steve Schippert, writing on NRO's The Tank, points out that it was CENTCOM commander Adm Fallon's job to stop such shipments, and didn't. FM 3-24 states the obvious with regard to the matter

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.

Of course, it's easy enough to say we need to stop Iran from supplying the insurgents in Iraq, another to bring it about. This post isn't the place to explore that in detail.

There's much more in 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. It's fragile, though, and could be lost if we pull out prematurely. Again, from FM 3-24

"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

Posted by Tom at April 5, 2008 9:30 PM

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