The Pacification of Zaganiyah (Part One): Fighting for Intelligence to Overcome the Information Gap

The Pacification of Zaganiyah (Part One): Fighting for Intelligence to Overcome the Information Gap

by James Michael Few

Download The Full Article: The Pacification of Zaganiyah (Part One)

The attacks of 9/11 and subsequent Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) thrust the United States military General Purpose Forces (GPF) into a host of small wars. As we relearned the timeless art of counterinsurgency, much debate surrounds perfecting the proper mixture of gentle influence and violent coercion required as an external intervention force. In the beginning, this mixture is irrelevant. Instead, the most difficult problem facing the commander is one of information. How does one discover and define the current situation on the ground? This understanding is the critical foundation of all other planning and actions.

This essay describes how one Army reconnaissance unit answered this question in a small village perched in a rural, hostile valley. It is the first part in a larger work describing company-level counterinsurgency efforts in the Diyala River Valley during the Iraq Surge. The intent is to describe our initial reconnaissance efforts to define the operational environment and develop a plan to intervene. The purpose is two-fold: 1. inform policy makers on the costs, requirements, and time needed for such GPF interventions, and 2. provide young leaders with an example of applying theory to practice.

While this individual case is unique in study, the methodology is universal. Basic military tactics and techniques appropriately applied for the given environment provide the highest probability for a successful outcome. This valley would serve as watershed moment for the junior combat leaders involved, and they would eventually apply these lessons learned in the streets of Baghdad at the tail end of the Iraq Surge, the ravaged airfield and slums of Port-au-Prince, Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, and the seemingly unconquerable valleys of Kunar Province along the Af-Pak border during the Afghanistan Surge.

Download The Full Article: The Pacification of Zaganiyah (Part One)

Major James Michael Few, USA, is an active duty armor officer and the Editor of Small Wars Journal. He served multiple tours to Iraq in various command and staff positions. The views expressed herein are his own.

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Mike

Nice bit of work. I like how you have tied the lessons from your time in DRV to other scenarios such as Katrina and Haiti.

What would be really interesting (it may have been done already) is to go back to this area and interview local people to get their first hand percpetion on how they saw it. How the strategy and tactics played on their decisions and motivations; where there actions that drove them away from the US and Iraq Gov or pulled them closer? What are top of mind US actions do they remember good and bad?

Not sure if post-conflict analysis of the local population has been done before but if it hasnt I would suggest that we think this as part of "lessons learned".

We are very good at seeing it from our perspective but in the end the raison detre of COIN is winning over the population - lets find out what bit almost derailed the plan and what bits led to success.

Good piece Mike.

Cheers

Jason

Hi Carl and Rusty,

Thanks for taking the time to read part one. Below are some answers to your questions.

1. In the next part, I will include maps as the story gets into more maneuver and ties in with the Battle of Baqubah, Operation Arrowhead Ripper, and Operation Phantom Thunder.

2. As for the decision to arrest Moose, that is on those responsible to explain. I'm still not happy about it, but, in their defense, we were one of 32 other companies in the area and there was a lot going on at the time.

3. We relied extensively on both signals (SIGINT) and Imagery (IMINT) intelligence; however, I feel that those technological are often overemphasized in the current literature so I focused on the HUMINT collection in this story. The other two compliment, but they are not a substitute. Later, I will explain thoroughly how we tied in the ISR assets into the company-level operations.

Best,

Mike

Excellent essay, Major. I felt ike I was right there with you and your brave men. The learning experiences with tribal leaders and the appreciation of Moose (I hope the loss was temporary),gives great insight into your own humanity and leadership.

Mike:

I am glad you presented this. It helps a civilian like me learn how thing are done, not just that they are done. And it shows that the military how has to do with individuals with names and human (very human up to and including mistress') emotions, motivations and experience. I never would have figured that duty in post Katrina New Orleans would have been valuable. Looking forward to the next parts.

I have some questions. Will there be some maps in the next parts? That would be helpful. Why couldn't the intervention of the officer who worked most closely with Moose have turned the trick? Don't they listen to the guy on the spot? On the recon insertions you described, did you have dedicated ISR support? If not, would it have been helpful?

And I rather like this sentence "As we relearned the timeless art of counterinsurgency, much debate surrounds perfecting the proper mixture of gentle influence and violent coercion required as an external intervention force." That describes the problem nicely.

I know now that DRV means Diyala river valley. My age shows though because every time I read it I had to remind myself that it wasn't the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.