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The Surge Revisited

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The Surge Revisited

Joseph J. Collins

The Surge in Iraq was a highly successful adaptation to a changed strategic context. After a troubled year-long occupation, coalition troops had become bogged down in Iraq.  The situation later improved under a new commander, General George Casey, but the theater exploded in sectarian violence after the bombing of the al-Askari shrine in Samarra, a Shia holy place, early in 2006.  Al Qaeda was on the march, and the Sunni majority was alienated from the Shia-dominated Iraqi government.   The government was powerless to control the fighting, and Iraqi security forces --- ill-trained, relatively few in number, and often caught up in sectarian rivalries --- were clearly inadequate to the task before them. 

There have been a number of good books about the Surge in Iraq.  Among my favorites are Bob Woodward’s, The War Within: A Secret White House History, 2006-2008 , which chronicles President Bush and his advisors, coming to grips with need for change in Iraq.  Tom Ricks’s The Gamble (2009), was a more favorable assessment of the war than his first book, The Fiasco (2006), whose title aptly characterized the occupation and its aftermath.   Linda Robinson’s book, Tell Me How this Ends: General David Petraeus and the Search for a Way Out of Iraq (2008) was notable not just for its strategic perspective but also for its stirring accounts of early Surge battles. Peter Mansoor’s book --- Surge: My Journey with General David Petraeus and the Remaking of the Iraq War [i] --- adds to the list of impressive works about the Surge.   His niche is the view from the command post.

Colonel/Doctor/Professor Mansoor is not only an important eyewitness but also a trained historian, who now holds the prestigious General Raymond E. Mason, Jr., Chair of Military History at Ohio State University.  As an Army Colonel, he commanded an armor brigade during the occupation,[ii]  and his unit earned 230 Purple Hearts during its year in downtown Baghdad.  He was later the founding director of the Army-Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center at Fort Leavenworth, which played an important role in the development of our new counterinsurgency doctrine.  Mansoor was also one of a handful of colonels on the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) Council of Colonels special study group on Iraq futures. This important book is entirely his own, but it includes many insights by the theater commander, including a 16-page foreword by Petraeus himself.  This is one of Petraeus’s longest statements on his third command in Iraq and adds greatly to the value of this book, as do the numerous documents included in the text and the appendecies.

Mansoor lays out his book in a way that any strategist would appreciate.  He starts with the strategic context for the Surge, recounting the errors and missteps of the occupation period.  For the author, American proconsul Jerry Bremer had “created the military basis for the insurgency” by disbanding the Iraqi Army, and “the political basis” by de-Baathification (pp. 8-9).  [ To be fair, however, both of these poorly staffed programs came from Washington and were only brought to Baghdad by Bremer, who promptly executed them.] Our ground forces in Iraq were also flat-footed, undermanned, and trained for “rapid, decisive operations and quick victories by high-tech fighting forces …. Combined Joint Task Force 7 (CJTF-7) [the coalition military command under LTG Rick Sanchez] lacked a coherent strategy and a defined operational plan to achieve the ends of policy“(p. 13). 

Mansoor reserves his most severe judgment for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who is tagged with creating a “best case” war plan,  a refusal to “approve more troops to secure Iraq,” a gross misestimate of the enemy and a “denial of the existence of an insurgency … [that] contributed to the dysfunction of the American military effort”(p. 17).  Rumsfeld resigned not after the debacle at Abu Gharib, or because of problems on the battlefield, but only after the crushing Republican defeat in the 2006 elections. [Mansoor does point out that Rumsfeld had previously tendered his resignation which was not accepted.]

The author then turns his attention to the post-occupation period.  Initially, General George Casey and his diplomatic partners, Ambassador John Negroponte and later, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad improved organization and made many politico-military advances.  On the military side, Casey put in an extra headquarters, created a refined campaign plan, established a counterinsurgency academy, and accelerated the training of Iraqi forces.  After the six-week, second battle of Fallujah, Casey realized that combat in the cities was not the answer to the insurgency in Iraq.  Indeed, his own staff later concluded that “there is little objective evidence that a wedge is being driven between the insurgents and the population of Iraq.”  In 2005, the command’s emphasis shifted to turning “the war over to the Iraqis” (p. 21).  President Bush confidently noted in August 2005 that “as Iraqis stand up, Americans will stand down” (p.22).  The outline of an exit strategy began to appear through the fog of battle, but reality again intruded:  in addition to an insurgency, the war had become a sectarian conflict, and an occasionally kinetic fight inside the Shia community for dominance, all of which were increasingly complicated by a large and powerful al Qaeda presence.  In December 2006, the command’s own review noted that its “ends, ways, and means are out of alignment” (p. 32). 

President Bush, his NSC staff, outside consultants, such as retired Army General Jack Keane, and the CJCS’s Council of Colonels all knew that something had to change.  While the command in Iraq argued for staying the course, and the prestigious Iraq Study group focused on increasing security assistance, President Bush agreed with his NSC staff and the recommendations from the American Enterprise Institute:  more troops, different techniques, and a new battle plan were necessary. After months of study, the President and his team decided to double down, reinforce units in the greater Baghdad area and al Anbar province, and move to a more population centric strategy, one with a renewed emphasis on living-with-the people counterinsurgency tactics. At the same time, the command stepped up its counterterrorism efforts and accelerated the training of Iraqi security forces. It was not just a case of more means, but also different ways.  For President Bush, it was a rigorous assessment, open decision-making, and perseverance, perhaps the finest decision of his eight-year presidency.

Mansoor played a key role in these developments.  Following Field Marshal Montgomery’s observation about Malaya, the President needed a new man and a new plan. In this case, based on the recommendations of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, President Bush chose General Petraeus to be his new commander, and, in turn, Petraeus chose Colonel Peter Mansoor as his Executive Officer, confidant, and the senior member of what Newsweek would later call the “Brainiac Brigade,” a squad of smart, experienced, and well-educated officers who advised the new commander.  Their first battle together was Petraeus’s confirmation hearing, where he won over a reluctant Senate.

Once in Iraq, Petraeus rushed forward the five reinforcing brigades and focused his new command on a new way of doing business.  “The goal … would be to secure the Iraqi people against ethno-sectarian violence and intimidation, a goal wholeheartedly shared by Lieutenant General Ray Odierno and his team already on the ground” (page 68).  Securing the people would be job one, and living with the people and “joint security stations” with Iraqi forces, would become key techniques.  All of this was meant to provide trade space for Iraqi government-led reconciliation.

The first few months of the Surge were characterized by the toughest fighting and highest casualties that our forces had ever suffered, but better doctrine and tactics showed results.  At the same time, the Sunni Awakening took place.  Sunni tribes and militias turned their backs on al Qaeda and moved into league with the government, aided and abetted by Petraeus and his subordinate commanders. 

By the summer of 2007, casualties had begun to come down. It was obvious that the Surge was working, but not to everyone.  Admiral Fallon, the CENTCOM commander, sent a team lead by Rear Admiral James “Sandy” Winnefeld, USN (now Admiral and Vice Chairman, JCS) on an inspection tour of Iraq.  After three weeks there, the team briefed General Petraeus that it “would recommend a significant reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq and a shift in focus to training Iraqi security forces” (p. 179).  In other words, he would recommend abandoning the Surge and returning to the previous policies that had cease to work.  Nothing came of this effort, but it was a distraction for the command and proof positive that the resistance to the Surge had not disappeared within the high command.[iii]

In September 2007, testimony by Petraeus and Crocker met with deep congressional skepticism and the horrid “General Betray Us” ad by the leftist organization, Move On.org.  To further complicate the setting, posturing for the 2008 presidential elections had begun.  The Surge was criticized by Senators Biden, who recommended a division of Iraq into three countries, by Senator Chuck Hagel who rejected the command’s statistics, and then by Senators Barbara Boxer, Barack Obama, Russ Feingold, Teddy Kennedy and others, some of whom used their time to make speeches, rather than asking questions.  Senator Hillary Clinton later added salt to the criticism by saying that the Crocker-Petraeus reports “required the willing suspension of disbelief” (p. 206).  In the end, the Congress did suspend its disbelief and did not move to end the Surge or set a date certain for withdrawal.  The command had weathered its final political storm and continued on course to its completion in the summer of 2008. 

One of the final acts of the Surge was Maliki’s surprise decision to use Iraqi Army forces, unilaterally, in Basra to break the control of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Jaish al-Mahdi shia militia.  Mansoor’s detailed account of this operation, along with new information on the extent of Iranian operations in Iraq, add much to this excellent and important book. 

The Surge, when coupled with the Sunni awakening and a tough counterterrorism program, turned the tide of the war and devastated al Qaeda in Iraq.  In Mansoor’s view, none of these collateral aspects of the Surge, by themselves, would have been sufficient.  Certainly, the Sunni Awakening would have faltered if the United States were pulling out combat troops and heading for the exit.  By the spring of 2008, security incidents across Iraq had been reduced to a mere 15% of what they were at their pre-Surge high point.  A war had not been won, but a strategic campaign had succeeded beyond the fondest hopes of many of its civil and military architects.

Does the success of the Surge in Iraq offer lessons for future operations?  Lessons learned --- or “lessons encountered,” as the British prefer --- are not cookie cutters, useful in every situation.  They often take years to unfold.  With that caveat, the Surge experience leaves one with a few observations that one day may evolve into lessons.

First, the Surge was an initiative within one of the wars making up what, overall, has been called the war on terrorism.  As Mansoor himself notes, “the conflict in Iraq was a war of choice begun badly for vague strategic reasons and then nearly lost” (p. 261).  The Surge put the conflict back on the right track, but it did not end it.  A few years later, negotiations for a follow-on force broke down over the issue of immunity for US forces in Iraq.  After the US withdrawal in 2011, Iraq was left to its own devices, and the Maliki government --- to be kind --- has not lived up to its promise.  As of the fall of 2013, more civilians die every month in Iraq than in Afghanistan.  Iran has broad influence in Iraq. Al Qaeda is back in force, and the civil war in Syria has created instability to the point that Maliki has recently asked the United States for security assistance.  Clausewitz reminded us that the results of war are not permanent, and the same can be said for successful strategic initiatives. 

Second, tempting fate, the next Administration decided to do a time-limited Surge in Afghanistan.  Both in Iraq and Afghanistan, the local security forces benefitted from the time that the Surge provided for their development, but in Afghanistan, there was no “awakening.”   Progress in Afghanistan has been slower than in Iraq.  The US and Afghan governments are now debating an advise- and-assist force to stay behind after ISAF combat forces depart in December 2014.  Again, immunity of US forces from local prosecution is a sticking point.  Time will tell if the Afghans are smarter than the Iraqis were on that score.  The Afghans clearly have fewer resources than the Iraqis.  That should argue in favor of prudence, but that item often disappears from the menu in Afghanistan.

Finally, the Surge was a successful counterinsurgency effort.  That doctrine is now under fire and the Pentagon ---while interested in counterterrorism and some aspects of counterinsurgency --- has said that it will not build forces for extended stability operations.  All of this is understandable, but if it means that once again we build high-tech conventional forces only for rapid, decisive operations, we may end up again with an Army trained for one thing and employed to do another.  Irregular conflicts are still the most likely forms of conflicts that we will encounter, and combat is much more likely to come in the Middle East and parts of Africa than in the Asia-Pacific. In the next decade, Air-Sea Battle is likely to remain a thought exercise while the COIN manual will be used every day in overseas contingencies.

On the issue of futures, it is hard to argue with Professor Mansoor’s parting shot at both our officer corps and the American civil and military educational systems:

Our mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan were the result of a pervasive failure to understand the historical framework within which insurgencies take place, to appreciate the cultural and political factors of other nations and people, and to encourage the learning of foreign languages.  In other words, in Afghanistan and Iraq, we managed to repeat many of the mistakes that we made in Vietnam, because America’s political and military leaders managed to forget nearly every lesson of that conflict. (p. 275)

In the end, Mansoor agrees with David Kilcullen’s observation in the Accidental Guerrilla:

The Surge worked: but in the final analysis, it was an effort to save ourselves from the more desperate consequences of a situation we should never have gotten ourselves into. (p. 275)

Joseph J. Collins teaches strategy at the National War College.  From 2001-04, he was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Stability Operations.  This review is his work and does not represent the opinion or assessment of the US government or any of its departments or agencies.

End Notes

[i] Mansoor’s Surge was published by the Yale University Press in 2013. It contains xxxiii pages of front matter and 323 pages of text and notes.

[ii] Mansoor’s account of his time in command  on his first tour can be found at Baghdad at Sunrise: A Brigade Commander’s War in Iraq (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008)

[iii] Admiral Fallon resigned his position as CENTCOM commander in March 2008 after he made inappropriate remarks in an interview.

 

About the Author(s)

Joseph J. Collins, a retired Army Colonel and a former Deputy Asst. Secretary of Defense, directed the Center for Complex Operations at the National Defense University, where he has been on the faculty since 2004.  His articles represent the author’s personal views and not necessarily those of NDU, the Joint Staff, the Department of Defense, or any other government agency.

Comments

So many topics have been brought up in the comments I'm not sure I can respond to all the ones that I want to. Here's some of the most important ones.

1) Iraq is facing a resurgent insurgency
AQI, the Naqshibandi, Ansar al-Islam, some tribes are all active and growing today. The number of attacks took off after the government raid upon the Hawija protest site in Kirkuk in late April 2013. AQI specifically now has bases in Ninewa, Salahaddin, Diyala and Babil and is trying to re-establish itself in Anbar.

2) Breakdown in Iraq's politics is the cause
During the 2009 provincial elections many Sunnis including some insurgent groups decided to try their hand at politics. They had been beat in the civil war and boycotted the 2005 vote and now thought that joining the government was the way to go. Violence took a dramatic drop afterward. That new status quo fell apart in 2010. First Maliki went from portraying himself as a nationalist politician to a sectarian one when he took up deBaathification of candidates to protect his flank from his Shiite rivals. Then the Iraqiya list fell apart due to bad leadership. Both the Sunni and Shiite, religious and secular politicians turned out to be failures and the result was more and more Sunnis gave up on the political process as a way to express their views. That is the core cause of the resurgence of violence.

3) Ineffectiveness of the ISF
The Iraqi forces are now conducting operations much like the U.S. did before the Surge. The main tactics are raids and mass arrests. Since the summer for example hundreds of people have been picked up. Given the poor state of Iraq's justice system many of these people are likely going to be abused in jail and may not be released any time soon. Worse yet most of these people probably have nothing to do with the insurgency, and is costing the government standing and support as a result. The government is also wasting its assets by constantly sending the army and police to desert and border regions in places like Anbar and Ninewa when the majority of violence takes place in cities like Fallujah and Mosul. The result is that the ISF is making the situation worse by turning sectors of the country against the government.

4) Maliki is not a dictator
Does he have autocratic tendencies? Yes. Has he tried to consolidate power? Yes. To say he is a dictator however is to misread the structure of the Iraqi government, which is dysfunctional. Every party that wins a seat in parliament gets a place in the government. That means that Maliki has no control over the parliament. He has not control over the vast majority of Ministries. He does not control many of the provincial governments. Baghdad is simply too divided for any dictator to emerge unless one seized power.

Bill M.

Sun, 11/10/2013 - 2:24pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

GEN Shinseki spoke up and was laughed at by Rumfield, so I think there are two core impediments we have to overcome: integrity and arrogance.

For Move Forward I didn't mean the military got the strategic ends wrong, but senior military leaders need to speak truth to power and tell them that even if we got the COIN doctrine right (I don't think we did) it wouldn't work, so it is disappointing to see senior military leaders focusing their comments at the tactical level. We have a lot of experts at the tactical level, and they need leaders at the strategic level to set the right ends to ultimately be successful. Do we really need GEN officers focusing on the IED development cycle as one of the key lessons from the last 10 years?

More US forces wouldn't enable us to build a surrogate Army that could hold what we cleared if the people didn't buy into why they should hold in the first place. It doesn't take 10 years to stand up a military that can defeat an insurgency, so obviously something we're not comfortable discussing the real underlying problems, and throwing more money, troops, and time at it won't solve it.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 11/09/2013 - 5:30pm

In reply to by Move Forward

Move Forward---a couple of comments---historically since 1945 there has been no large scale force that has successfully resisted a determined insurgency---from Mao to VN to Cuba to Algeria, to Iraq and ultimately now AFG.

Secondly a number of those insurgencies involved Islam---which should not have surprised us the way it did in Iraq.

Large scale forces built by outside influencers tend to act militarily in the same manner as their benefactors therein lies their inherent weakness and is always exploited by the insurgent.

The inability of senior leaders to speak truth to power reflects an inability to take on the responsibility for the forces under them---did a single senior leader step up and say before 2003 that the forces going in are to light, or if the intel side was pushing back why did not the DIA via the service leaders stand up more aggressively and the list goes on---truth to power reflects integrity ---integrity is a key leader characteristic.

Integrity allows a good leader to actually say to the world---maybe just maybe we did not get it right but by ignoring reality nothing gets discussed.

Some of Roberts comments actually go in that direction---they focused on tactics an easy subject---integrity is harder---truth to power is even harder but it affects the entire force.

Move Forward

Sat, 11/09/2013 - 4:55pm

In reply to by Bill M.

<blockquote>We should have recognized <strong>our</strong> failure to design appropriate ends based on sustainable means, and realistic ways based on the human condition years ago but we opted instead to embrace a can do attitude and continued to pursue unrealistic ends. We failed on the strategic level, and while executing COIN with more skill would have been useful at the tactical level in reducing casualties I see no indications it would ultimately change the outcome. I share the disappointment that Bob Jone's expressed in his response to the blog post "Five Takeaways from a Decade of War" where the Generals only commented on the tactical level of war by commenting on IEDs and the impact of information technology on the force. It doesn't appear that those interviewed will be leading the charge in reassessing our strategy.</blockquote>

The "our" is in dispute here. The fallacy is that "our" military and that of coalition forces are at fault when in fact the National Command Authority, State Department, and Congress were at fault for not altering our Strategy. In the case of allies, the fault was insufficient forces and enablers as the British defense of Helmand showed that was bettered by USMC troops with more resources of the Surge. The Canadians did the best they could with what they had in Kandahar and that area but it took larger U.S. Army forces to better secure it and the Arghandab. As a result, a can-do attitude was about the most our military and our allies could do to fit within the civil authorities Strategy and make the best of it with forces and efforts split between two wars...one necessary and one that arguably never should have occurred (Iraq).

Retired and active Generals don't typically come out and criticize past Presidents for errant decisions, such as President Bush getting us into Iraq, and President Obama pulling us out in full from Iraq prematurely (and not listening to V.P. Biden's idea of splitting it up) and announcing a date certain for the Afghanistan pull-out. Instead, in forums like the one you cite, I suspect their best option is to note warfare trends made possible by new technologies and tactics of both friendly and threat forces.

<blockquote>It often seems that instead of strategy we have a series of countering missions that we pursue steady-state to include counter: drugs, terrorism, insurgency, WMD, transnational crime, etc., which places us squarely in a reactive mode versus a proactive mode.</blockquote>

Guess I don't see how drone strikes are remotely reactive anywhere they have been used. Trying to stop drugs entering our country seems like about the most we can do given demand we cannot influence. That is unless we believe "just say no" worked or legalizing it would reduce demand...just like legalizing booze ended drunk driving and alcoholism? Insurgency created by not having sufficient say in your government or religious beliefs seems logically solved by splitting up folks with disputes so that they have greater self-rule. Again, the NCA and State Department seem unwilling to embrace that idea.

<blockquote>They can impose a forced and often unwelcomed control of the populace that results in temporary security improvements, but we have demonstrated we can't build our way out of that hold position if our ends our unrealistic. We also can't sustain the hold operations indefinitely. </blockquote>

However, if we give host nations the opportunity and large scale training and experience to build their security forces and become proficient, they can hold. Of course, if some external element (Russia, China, ISI) helps the insurgents or they support a large conventional invasion, then our Congress and NCA must be willing to respond accordingly. They should not pass a law as in Vietnam that precluded a bombing campaign to thwart the post-peace attack that worked quite well in the '72 defense against the Easter Offensive and in the Linebacker air campaigns.

As someone else pointed out, conventional units like the 82nd worked with SF in VSOs. However, if that alone had been created, it would have differed little from warlord militias and would have remained susceptible to Taliban and foreign fighter massing. Only the ANSF and Iraqi security forces have the wherewithal to battle larger attacks throughout their respective nations, and hold major centers of gravity.

<blockquote>As for Libya I may be one of the few that believe our decision to limit large scale boots on the ground involvement was appropriate. The Libyans are ultimately going to determine their future, not us, at best we can delay the outcome by imposing our own outcome if we occupied it, but we could quickly be blamed for the shortfalls and become the enemy.</blockquote> Never thought we should have had boots on the ground in Libya. Just saying that perhaps Libya was better off under Qaddafi than it is now, and perhaps Hussein could have been contained in Iraq, but then we never could have imposed the oil sanctions on Iran without oil from Iraq flowing again. Realpolitik works sometimes. Likewise, even if it is a coup, eliminating Morsi from power will likely lead to a better Egypt whereas retaining Mubarak probably would have been an even better result. Regardless of whether it is boots on the ground, SOF, or just air and sea power attacks, getting involved does not ensure a successful outcome. But if we do get involved in someplace like Libya, it hardly seems logical that we don't get involved in a more strategically-located Syria at least from a bombing standpoint instead of just cruise missiles.

The problem is that we lose regardless of which side wins in Syria whether we do or do not get involved. However, if we had not pulled everything out of Iraq prematurely, methinks the Iranians would not be violating Iraqi airspace and Predators/Reapers, SFA forces, and SOF could be doing their thing to help the Iraq military and people not experience the Syrian spillover.

Bill M.

Sat, 11/09/2013 - 3:00pm

In reply to by Move Forward

Move Forward,

I will not dispute the limitations of using SOF to achieve all our all of our strategic objectives. It is appropriate when it is appropriate, and that clearly isn't in all situations. Ends, ways, and means should inform each other when developing strategy, and as both you and Outlaw stated our ambitious ends for both Afghanistan and Iraq were not only beyond our means, but we didn't have a realistic way to get the people in these countries to embrace our idea of governance. We should have recognized our failure to design appropriate ends based on sustainable means, and realistic ways based on the human condition years ago but we opted instead to embrace a can do attitude and continued to pursue unrealistic ends. We failed on the strategic level, and while executing COIN with more skill would have been useful at the tactical level in reducing casualties I see no indications it would ultimately change the outcome. I share the disappointment that Bob Jone's expressed in his response to the blog post "Five Takeaways from a Decade of War" where the Generals only commented on the tactical level of war by commenting on IEDs and the impact of information technology on the force. It doesn't appear that those interviewed will be leading the charge in reassessing our strategy.

It often seems that instead of strategy we have a series of countering missions that we pursue steady-state to include counter: drugs, terrorism, insurgency, WMD, transnational crime, etc., which places us squarely in a reactive mode versus a proactive mode. We pursue these counter missions endlessly adapting to our adversaries countering our countering more often than not achieving little of strategic value. Makes you wonder if we gave the initiative to our adversaries? We have to counter what threatens us at the tactical level, but to confuse that with strategy seems misguided.

I know you're a advocate for sustaining a big Army, and I agree the current cuts are too much, but in reality what did that force accomplish recently? They can impose a forced and often unwelcomed control of the populace that results in temporary security improvements, but we have demonstrated we can't build our way out of that hold position if our ends our unrealistic. We also can't sustain the hold operations indefinitely.

As for Libya I may be one of the few that believe our decision to limit large scale boots on the ground involvement was appropriate. The Libyans are ultimately going to determine their future, not us, at best we can delay the outcome by imposing our own outcome if we occupied it, but we could quickly be blamed for the shortfalls and become the enemy. Once again best intentions would backfire and ultimately result in greater threats to our security. Small scale SOF and GPF engagements can assist Libya and other countries in situations where they're willing to receive and implement advice. Just as importantly these small elements provide ground truth on what is feasible much like the OSS attempted to do in Vietnam, but of course that advice was ignored and we responded with a large footprint that only resulted in delaying S. Vietnam's fall. Was another operational approach more feasible?

Bottom line we have to discern our strategic aims first before we discuss appropriate means and ways.

Move Forward

Sat, 11/09/2013 - 5:35pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

<blockquote>Referencing radical islam---we have deployed two large field armies, trained up of 300K in security forces in two countries, drone strikes and COIN---have we been successful?</blockquote>

"Successful" relative to having <strong>nothing</strong> to combat resurgent Sunnis and Shiite militias in Iraq if we had pulled out early? Successful with 4500 Iraq casualties and 2200 in Afghanistan vs 58,000 in Vietnam? Hindsight is easy. Thinking about the alternative could-have-beens under different decisions is difficult. Logic suggests that if 175 Texas Rangers are insufficient to maintain law and order in peaceful Texas, small numbers of constantly rotating SOF or nonexistent ANSF and Iraq militaries would not secure the peace in either equal size but infinitely more restive Iraq or Afghanistan post "mission accomplished."

<blockquote>If I remember correctly SOF did in fact force the Taliban out of AFG until out politicians decided to go to Iraq. SF implemented VSO albeit seven years to late and currently SF is taking over 20% of the causalities as the GPF drawdown.</blockquote>

And if we and the ANSF cannot stop Taliban and foreign fighters from crossing the Durand Line now with hundreds of thousands of troops, how could SOF with just warlord militias of the Northern Alliance and no nearby air support over the long haul? How would that have led to some semblance of a functioning GIRoA vs. continued warlord rule? Why would Pakistan have taken us seriously? If bin Laden and company crossed the border once, he could have done it many a time...still alive and financing/leading al Qaeda.

If SF is taking over 20% of the casualties as the GPF draws down, does that not suggest that a small, highly capable force still has problems against massing insurgents who better understand the terrain? Shok Valley? Operation Redwings? Somalia in the early 90s and recently where withdrawal without success was required? Mali SF training forces that conducted a coup. Lots of classified ones no doubt? Because smaller SF elements accompanying larger host nation elements would still require lots of air and supply enablers, the costs to the U.S. would not necessarily be that much cheaper "per Soldier" (what used to be $1 million per troop is now $2 million) and FOBs/COPs still would be essential in multiple areas to ensure fire support and air attack/resupply is within range. Then there is the matter of getting Pakistan and other "stans" to routinely allow aircraft and ground supplies to traverse their territory.

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 11/09/2013 - 3:29pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

<em>If I remember correctly SOF did in fact force the Taliban out of AFG until out politicians decided to go to Iraq.</em>

That brilliant work was grafted onto--or in synergy with--work done by others in helping the Northern Alliance prior to that involvement. Now, where did I read an article on that some time ago? Maybe by Elkus at Abu M?

Outlaw 09

Sun, 11/10/2013 - 4:00pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Madhu---this might be the reason that AQ announced/told ISIL to return to Iraq as AQ---the last sentence in this comment is extremely interesting.

ISIL tactics have not been controversial only among residents where they exercised their authority, but among Syrian fighters as well, including ideological allies. The group’s vision for a region-wide caliphate did not fit with the designs of JAN, a former ally and ISIL’ Al Qaeda-supported predecessor in Syria. Though they occasionally cooperate, JAN split from ISIS for two reasons.

First, JAN does not support a region-wide Islamic State; it is Syria-centric. Its full name is jabhat al-nusra li’ahl al-sham. “Jabhat” means “front,” the political rather than military connotations of which suggests the group has post-conflict aspirations, which are largely specific to the Syrian state. Moreover, “Nusra” means “salvation,” referring to the story in the Quran of how Medina residents protected the prophet Muhammed and his followers when they escaped persecution in Mecca. So Jabhat al-Nusra’s full name really emphasizes its Syria-first mentality: “Salvation Front for the People of Syria.”

Second, though both believe in an Islamic state, JAN does not force its agenda. ISIL explicitly bans smoking in villages, whereas JAN merely suggests this behavior is improper. The distinction is minor, but makes a difference to Syrians. Of the two post-AQI groups trying to learn from Iraq, Nusra is clearly a more evolved model.

Its Hezbollah-inspired effort to combine demographic depth with Islamic militancy is a new phenomenon for Sunni Salafist groups. While this suggests that JAN may be the greater long-term threat, nothing in Syria is certain.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 11/09/2013 - 4:22pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Madhu---this sentence is interesting as it almost word for word taken from a ten point complaint list a cell leader had sent to AQI in 2006 that we had picked up on a raid. Needless to say AQI ignored the cell leaders complaints.

"Both sides, and all the mujahedeen (Islamist fighters) should observe the sanctity of Muslims, in respecting their blood, families and property, and should not attack a Muslim without a court order," he said."

Outlaw 09

Sat, 11/09/2013 - 4:22pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Madhu---this sentence is interesting as it almost word for word taken from a ten point complaint list a cell leader had sent to AQI in 2006 that we had picked up on a raid. Needless to say AQI ignored the cell leaders complaints.

"Both sides, and all the mujahedeen (Islamist fighters) should observe the sanctity of Muslims, in respecting their blood, families and property, and should not attack a Muslim without a court order," he said."

Outlaw 09

Thu, 11/14/2013 - 1:49pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Madu---now take your list and take each standing order (expand out the meaning that John placed in the topic and cross level some of your points)--you might in fact notice similarities between the two.

Then notice the parallels between what John writes as "open source warfare" as compared to Kilcullen's "ecosystem".

Too many who supported COIN disliked the parallels between OSW and ecosystem---but it does go a long way in explaining AQ in Syria/Iraq and elsewhere these days and the interaction between AQ and other Sunni groupings.

Liked your list by the way---

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 11/14/2013 - 1:36pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Thanks once more! I am familiar with John Robb too, but don't have time to follow-up on that area of interest. A lot of people I admire find his work interesting, whether they agree or disagree. He seems to be good at looking at processes.

I once came up with the following based on a sort of watching the whole "Khalistan" phenom from afar. The Western discourse based on immigration patterns from the 60's, 70's and 80's (Sikh and other immigrants) was different from what I heard having family from parts of norther India. This is how I became so suspicious of narratives, or, at least, one narrative as an explanation for complicated issues with proponents on many sides. Partition was traumatic and for someone with my background, wanting to "borne" another state seemed like an invitation for more violence and disorder although I have no illusions about the Indian state and its abuses. There is a reason so many poor live there.

So, here is what I came up with and I'll compare it to what you wrote:

My it's-for-free-so-don't-complain insurgency "model":
Punjab Insurgency:
1. Diaspora support overseas.
2. Internal governance issues (not just poor governance, but exploiting the issue for internal political and monetary gain).
3. Religion.
4. Language and other markers of group and ethnicity.
5. Connection to transnational and internal criminal groups.
6. Cross-border support.
7. Connection of insurgents to other transnational groups.
8. Insurgency occurring within background of certain international Cold War and post Cold War state-state relationships.
9. Connection to overseas governments (Saudi, US, UK) in terms of complicated state-to-state and diaspora relationships.

I sort of made all that up based on what I had read in papers targeted for overseas Indian diaspora. It wasn't conscious on my part, I had no real interest in these matters until fairly recently. Just a sort of impression and fear in the background. I remember how afraid adults around me were when Indira Gandhi was assassinated. As a kid I remember thinking, "oh, it's so easy to support violence abroad when you live safe and sound in the West." I thought it was gross to glamorize violence although I suppose I do it sometimes too.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 11/14/2013 - 1:23pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Madhu---the CTC imagery study was from 2006.

When you are searching check via Google "global guerrillas" from John Robb.

He produced back in 2007/2008 the following standing orders of an insurgency which if one works through match anything I have seen from 1966 until 2013 which explains insurgent actions---one needs to read the explanation under each standing order---too long for here.

What is interesting is I can apply the standing orders to just about any current or past insurgency and insurgent group and they always make sense when it comes to understanding their tactics---once I understand their tactics then it really is easy to step up the ladder and look at their strategy and how the two interrelate---big Army tended to ignore them as it goes counter to COIN.

The standing orders go a long way in explaining what is being seen in the Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations aka drug cartels.

1.Break Networks
2.Grow Black Economies
3.Virtualize your organization
4.Repetition is more important than scale
5.Coopetition
6.Don't fork the insurgency
7.Minimalist rule sets work best
8.Self-replicate
9.Share everything that works
10.Release Early and Often
11.Co-opt, don't own, basic services
.

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 11/14/2013 - 1:00pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Thanks for that recommendation. I am familiar with that resource but don't remember the imagery project. Again, thanks.

<blockquote>The rapid growth of al Qaeda in Syria in the last two years and its rejuvenation in Iraq is part of the broader emergence of the third generation of al Qaeda—AQ 3.0 if you like— that has taken place since the death of Osama bin Laden and the beginning of the Arab Awakening. After being initially surprised by the revolutions that swept across the Arab world, al Qaeda has exploited the chaos and breakdown of law and order that followed to build or expand sanctuaries in Yemen, Libya, Algeria, Mali and now increasingly in Egypt as well as in Syria and Iraq.</blockquote>

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/11/11/al-qaeda-s-most-danger…

I suppose the standard complaint of such analysis is that not everything is Al Qaeda but instead different groups with different purposes if a superficially similar ideology, connected at times, while disconnected at others.

But I am more interested in processes that give rise to the alphabet soup of radicalism than the perfect naming of everything. That was always the problem with "AfPak" as a formulation. It negated the inadvertent support our own systems (the US and NATO) have historically given to the growth of the alphabet soup. A lot of this has to do with a confused understanding of what our national priorities should be so we wade into situations and then stumble around because if we do A, it counters B, but then we worry about C, so counter D which just feeds B. And so on. No prioritization of one theater over another, no cutting losses when needed in the prioritization, no strategy.

Commenter Bill M pointed to a recent book by a Col Petit (?) that stated as much in the beginning, I believe. That there is a sort of Darwinian struggle of strategies taking place in the foreign policy apparatus, different people arguing different priorities which makes the system messy and counterproductive.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 11/10/2013 - 1:20pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Madhu---not sure you know this site but search for CTC West Point---then search publications by year and I think there will be a number of research articles of interest.

There was one that I really thought they should have continued expanding published in 2006---"Islamic Imagery Project" that you might find interesting.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 11/10/2013 - 12:55pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

I was just reading the following on a blog (Fabius Maximus):

<blockquote>During the ‘war on terror’, the symbolic organisation of the disparate global conflicts in which the US had a stake encouraged the proliferation of ‘al-Qaida’ threats. In some cases this was a matter of existing jihadi fraternities actually regrouping or rebranding themselves; in others it involved the assiduous application of the brand to miscellaneous actors.</blockquote>

http://fabiusmaximus.com/2013/10/12/al-qaeda-war-56756/

Human beings are so complex, it's hard to know. They lie to themselves, they lie to others, those listening to claims don't know what is truth and what is fiction. It's like peering into fog, some of this stuff. It makes the larger partisan conversation, which I enthusiastically took part in for many years, seem very strange, like an other world. Necessary in a republic, but definitely otherworldly.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 11/10/2013 - 12:35pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Madhu---you might be surprised just how many Sunni insurgents sworn Mossad was working in Iraq against them---after awhile of hearing it constantly being mentioned and getting several reports from fairly reliable sources that tended to confirm it---one had to wonder.

They were rumored to be coming into Iraq via the Kurds ie over Turkey.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 11/10/2013 - 12:02pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

<blockquote>The intelligence officer said that the Bush administration continued to deal with the affair until the end of his term. He noted that Israel's operation jeopardized the U.S. administration's fragile relationship with Pakistan, which was under immense pressure from Iran to crack down on Jundallah.

According to the intelligence officer, a senior administration official vowed to "take the gloves off" with Israel, but ultimately the U.S. did nothing.

"In the end it was just easier to do nothing than to, you know, rock the boat," the intelligence officer said.

Apparently, the Mossad operation caused a fiery debate among Bush's national security team and it was only resolved when U.S. President Barack Obama drastically scaled back joint U.S.-Israel intelligence programs targeting Iran, Perry quotes several serving and retired officers as saying.</blockquote> 'Israeli Mossad agents posed as CIA spies to recruit terrorists to fight against Iran', Haartez.com

Complicated place, the world. No wonder some prefer the comforting world of models of human behavior.

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 11/09/2013 - 4:19pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

I'm tend to stick to Afghanistan and South Asia around here, at least the attitudes of certain diaspora of a certain age/generation. Outside that, I tend to get confused.

I was trying to put your comments together with this:

<blockquote>Saudi Arabia would respond to an American withdrawal from Iraq by funding and arming Sunni insurgents to prevent them being massacred by Shia militias, the kingdom has told the White House.</blockquote>

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1536936/Well-arm-Sunni-insurg…

What do you think? Okay, I tend to get sucked into conversations[--I am an information addict, practically-- so I'll let it go for a bit!

The best education is conversation with someone that knows a little something about a subject. For me, anyway.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 11/09/2013 - 4:09pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Madhu---you surprise me on your comments---yes it is long term strategy vs short term and it is definitely asset control.

What has been interesting is the role that the JRTN is playing in the AQI campaign Breaking Down The Walls--they have taken the major role in attempting to retake towns and have done exceptionally well in their complex attacks.

Rumors have al Duri as the main player in JRTN which might be accurate as he has funding available that we never got and it was rumored he was a radical Sufi and JRTN has a radical Sufi background. JRTN has as well been able to cloak themselves in nationalist colors and defenders of the Sunni---appeals to AQ as well.

I do think AQI learned from their past actions in 2006---AQI appears to be capable of adapting.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 11/09/2013 - 3:34pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Madhu---AQ was unhappy that al Baghdadi had renamed AQI to ISIL meaning AQI had coopted the AQ element already inside Syria---AQI was sucking the air out of the Syrian based AQ element ---also I personally think that the US threat that a ISIL was becoming a direct threat to the US might be an excuse to draw US support back into Iraq to assist Malaki.

By pulling ISIL back then the excuse to provide Iraq additional intel/drone support disappears in theory.

There is a second theory---AQI had forked the Iraqi insurgency in 2006 causing AQI to be decimated by JSOC attacks and the Awakening movement.

ISIL has been in the last months also forking the Syria insurgents and infighting had picked up---think AQ was trying to stop that infighting.

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 11/09/2013 - 3:14pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

<em>The AQ mothership announced/demanded yesterday that the AQI needs to pull out of Syria and remain focused on Iraq---will be interesting to see how AQI responds to the mothership demand.</em>

Huh.

<blockquote>The Saudi government sealed its border with Iraq last year and has played down evidence that Saudi radicals have contributed to the insurgency there. But Western counterterrorism officials and diplomats here said a small but significant number of Saudi veterans of the fight in Iraq have already made their way back and are helping carry out attacks in the kingdom.</blockquote>

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A41375-2004Jul10.html

That which is focused outward is less likely to turn inward? I wonder what's really going on?

<blockquote>There may still be another angle to the Jundallah terrorist attacks. Since Jundallah is a Sunni Salafi group, it means that it may have some links with Saudi Arabia, the center of Salafism. At the same time, relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia have been very frosty.

Iran is particularly angry that it has not received a definitive response from Saudi Arabia about the fate of the Iranian nuclear physicist Shahram Amiri, who disappeared there in May. The Saudis may have helped Amiri defect. If that is true, the revelations about the Qom uranium enrichment facility may be linked with Amiri's defection.

Saudi Arabia is worried about the possibility of improved relations between Iran and the U.S., as well as Iran's nuclear program.</blockquote>

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2009/10/jundallah…

Also wonder which geniuses out there think they can control the forces of chaos, once unleashed? It's all just as easy as dreaming it up on paper. Human nature, what a pain in the a$$.

You ever see that screensaver where blobs of color are formed and tear apart and bounce all over the screen, sometimes different colors come together, and sometimes they break apart, all as the ever changing blobs move around from one area to another?

Outlaw 09

Sat, 11/09/2013 - 2:24pm

In reply to by Move Forward

Move Forward---one only has to look at what Malaki and his ISF has done towards Sunnis in the last two years---then there is no surprise in the resurgence of both AQI and the Sunni insurgent group JRTN which had evolved out of the IAI in 2008.

The JRTN views itself the defenders of the Sunni.

In July 2012 AQI announced their campaign "Breaking Down The Walls" with the two goals of attacking prisons (12 attacks in one year releasing 600 prisoners with extensive expertise in UW/IEDs) and regaining territory. They recently declared the campaign a victory.

The AQ mothership announced/demanded yesterday that the AQI needs to pull out of Syria and remain focused on Iraq---will be interesting to see how AQI responds to the mothership demand.

The JRTN has quietly well maybe not so quietly joined them---AQI carrying out the suicide attacks and JETN carrying out the VBIED attacks, ISF attacks and capturing of towns held by the ISF.

Referencing radical islam---we have deployed two large field armies, trained up of 300K in security forces in two countries, drone strikes and COIN---have we been successful?

I argue as do others that we have failed to fully understand UW and counter UW which would have allowed us to ratchet up or down responses to radical islam.

If I remember correctly SOF did in fact force the Taliban out of AFG until out politicians decided to go to Iraq. SF implemented VSO albeit seven years to late and currently SF is taking over 20% of the causalities as the GPF drawdown.

In Iraq JSOC decimated AQI and their FFs while regular Army had difficulty in trying to counter the Sunni insurgency groups until the Awakening---they never did find an answer to the RC IED and the EFPs.

The large French forces in Mali were in fact the French Foreign Legion and the French SF---both answer to the French President and the Tricolor.

AND once the Mali insurgents were driven back what happened--a strong FID took place the FFL/FSF pulled out---minimum effort minimum time on the ground and now just FID.

Some of us simply believe that if one fully understand UW and counter UW the strategic decision makers can devise responses that could avoid large forces on the ground and answer radical islam far more effectively than has been seen with large numbers of GPFs and COIN.

Move Forward

Sat, 11/09/2013 - 1:40pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

<blockquote>what I had pasted had in fact quoted comparisons back to 2008---now the comparisons are going back to the violence of 2007---latest series of attacks from ISIL and JRTN have brought the number of killed to over 1K just in one month---that is in fact equal to 2007 monthly rates.</blockquote>I'm unfamiliar with the totals at the time...just going by what Joe Collins said about May 2008 when violence was greatly reduced. However, you will recall the death squads and other gunfights in the street of that time that now seem nowhere near what they were then due to Iraqi security forces. If there had been no stabilizing large U.S presence and COPs/T-barriers and training of those Iraqis, that violence back then would have been far worse and we still would have been commuting to the war getting blown up by IEDs and not able to assist Awakening forces.

<blockquote>I would argue that it is exactly those national stability forces that we built that are the problem next to a Shia dictator that we in fact installed via a constitution that we ourselves wrote for the dictator---Malaki has not changed one sentence of the US written constitution and has in fact consolidated total power. Saddam with a new name.</blockquote>
Believe you got it right that both Iraqi and Afghanistan constitutions, and NCA and State Department insistence on leaving one nation instead of multiple smaller ones was the problem in both conflicts. That is not an indictment of either the military, COIN, or the Surge and large ground forces. That was a diplomatic attempt to duplicate the U.S. or Europe (except in Balkans) where folks with multiple different backgrounds can overcome there differences to coexist as one united nation. That does not appear to be a trait inherent in the people of the ME and AfPak, hampered by Colonial era borders that were poorly drawn from the get go.

There is no conceivable way that small SOF could have reduced violence in huge Iraq or Afghanistan without violence returning anymore than they could in Mali where larger French forces had to quell the problem.

<blockquote>Some have tried to point out over the last few years that attempting to create national security forces is a problem when we build/train/arm them in our image using our COIN doctrine.</blockquote>
No, they seem to be driving pick-ups (see recent War is Boring article), not MRAPs or Bradley/Abrams. Are they operating out of COPs and making any attempt to reach out to Sunnis or Pashtuns? I don't know that answer, but in Afghanistan, language alone precludes that at times. Again, that is why multiple smaller countries with ethnic militaries particular to those sections and voluntary relocation of ethnicities through land swaps might have worked.

<blockquote>In Syria we have an interesting flip in politics---namely a Shia sect minority controlling a mainly over 70% Sunni population---if the Sunni insurgents win they will be the representation of the majority as was the Shia control of a majority over the minority of Sunni's now in Iraq.</blockquote>
Except that the radical Sunnis would be the ones in charge, imposing Sharia law, gaining access to chemical WMD, and being on Israel's, Turkey's, and Jordan's border to make problems there and worldwide. That is where I believe that you and RantCorp understate the problem of Islamic extremism. We no longer are in Iraq, yet religious differences between Shia and Sunnis continue to cause problems. obviously, the Taliban are more religiously extreme than other Afghan ethnicities by the very definition of their name. Likewise, Syrian extremists are fighting with other more moderate Sunni and Kurd groups. Extremists in Egypt and Libya are creating problems. Pakistan's Taliban wants to turn Pakistan into an Islamic state and LeT causes problems in adjacent India where only 13% of the population subscribes to Islam.

When you and RantCorp say Islamic extremism is not the primary problem or motivation it ignores, not even considering al Qaeda and its offshoots:
* Suicide bombers
* Madrassas as sources of fighters
* Protests over U.S. videos and Koran desecrations
* Sharia law imposed by radicals in the Taliban but not by rank and file Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, Balochs, or Turkmen
* Recovery of bodies for burial
* Pakistani Taliban seeking Islamic State
* LeT attacks on India
* Foreign Fighters traveling to conduct Jihad without any nationalist motivation
* Continued Iraq Sunni-Shiite fighting
* Continued fighting in Egypt between moderate and Muslim Brotherhood Muslims
* Tunisian and Libyan moderates vs extremists
* Mali extremists and foreign fighters
* Syrian extremists vs less extreme fighters
* Israel and the Palestinian problem which agitates even moderate Islam

<blockquote>As per the Texas border---I would argue and will in a response to Robert on dark networks that Mexico represents something that has historically not been seen before in the entire world and that is the threat to Texas.</blockquote> The Mexican drug cartel information is interesting and largely parallel to problems of drug-runners in Afghanistan. However, my main point is we don't attempt to stop the problem with just 175 Texas Rangers. We would not begin to suggest that airpower or sea-based forces could fix things. We have 70,000 forces spread out in small groups to cover that vast expanse. Imagine if that force had to contend with IEDs, poor roads slowing responses to TICs (911 calls), or ambushes let alone suicide bombers and green on blue attacks. Illegal immigrants and drug runners are not entering the country trying to convert Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, or California to radical Christianity. No heads are being lopped off, no stonings exist, and they don't bomb schools, or throw acid in women's faces or shoot Malala like the latest Pakistan Taliban leader caused.

<blockquote>By the way large land armies in countries with insurgencies have failed ie Iraq and AFG---that was the reason for the article by Dave Maxwell recently on UW.</blockquote>All who argue that smaller SOF elements or wholesale abandonment of nations after "victory" is the solution have no basis to make those claims. The Philippines, El Salvador, and Columbia all had competent militaries that SOF just assisted with FID. In Iraq and Afghanistan it was starting from scratch to build large security forces.

If the smaller insurgent groups you cite were a problem in Iraq, just picture a resurgent Saddam Hussein Baathist Army if we immediately had departed. Recall that we thought Hussein would not survive post Desert Storm. Wholesale slaughter of Kurds and Shiites ended that fantasy. Why would we believe that the Taliban would not return immediately after 2002 with nothing to stop them and with questionable access to overflight and overland rights once 9/11 was several years removed? If defies logic to believe that small SOF elements and air and seapower could have permanently ended the problems or Iraq and Afghanistan without some period of stability operations and training of large national security forces.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 11/09/2013 - 11:02am

In reply to by Move Forward

Move Forward---what I had pasted had in fact quoted comparisons back to 2008---now the comparisons are going back to the violence of 2007---latest series of attacks from ISIL and JRTN have brought the number of killed to over 1K just in one month---that is in fact equal to 2007 monthly rates.

I would argue that it is exactly those national stability forces that we built that are the problem next to a Shia dictator that we in fact installed via a constitution that we ourselves wrote for the dictator---Malaki has not changed one sentence of the US written constitution and has in fact consolidated total power. Saddam with a new name.

Some have tried to point out over the last few years that attempting to create national security forces is a problem when we build/train/arm them in our image using our COIN doctrine.

In Syria we have an interesting flip in politics---namely a Shia sect minority controlling a mainly over 70% Sunni population---if the Sunni insurgents win they will be the representation of the majority as was the Shia control of a majority over the minority of Sunni's now in Iraq.

I would argue that currently what we are seeing in Iraq/Syria/Lebanon is in fact a struggle for local ME geopolitical power between Iran and the Saudi's and it goes back to the green crescent containment theory pushed by Iran after Khomenei came to power which was to consolidate all Shia from AFG to Lebanon.

Why the US political leadership in 2003 did not notice a 1400 year old problem is beyond me ---but hey one advisor from that period recently stated the reason for going into Iraq was to kick someone's butt so maybe history does not teach some peole.

In Syria---Assad seems to think he can flip history especially after the historical development in Iraq where a minority controlled the majority.

As per the Texas border---I would argue and will in a response to Robert on dark networks that Mexico represents something that has historically not been seen before in the entire world and that is the threat to Texas.

In Mexico we have Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) that initially were created to control the drug flows and profits to the US who have in fact expanded to include the entire world---those TCOs while initially focused on drug flow controls have now started to acquire territory under their control and to establish a quasi criminal governance in the districts they control---yes the Mexican government is contesting through the use of the elite military units but they are only treading water as the TCOs slowly expand their control.

If we though took a long and hard look at Mexico through analysis using UW we might be able to discern exactly what is occurring and strategically devise a response---but as long as we play politics, wave the do not tread on me flags, do not question the war on drugs, do not answer the immigration issues AND more importantly admit our high consumption of drugs in the US--- this problem will only get worst and force might be the only response left to the US.

But what is the answer in Mexico when the entire population is based on total corruption at all levels and that since the Mexican revolution and Zapata-- from police, to government to military to local citizens---this level of wide spread civilian corruption as the basis of an insurgency has never been seen. Yes there has been corruption within other insurgencies since 1993 but never to this level. AFG might though rival Mexico to a degree based on the billions we have pored into it as well as the billions in drug profits.

By the way large land armies in countries with insurgencies have failed ie Iraq and AFG---that was the reason for the article by Dave Maxwell recently on UW.

What will the US response be to a UW driven TCO residing in Mexico---actually not one TCO but numerous TCOs? Texas is a bit player in that analysis.

Move Forward

Sat, 11/09/2013 - 9:43am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Outlaw, I've been impressed reading much of your commentary the last few weeks. However, I think you and others are exaggerating how bad it has gotten in Iraq compared to 2006. You say casualties are higher than at any point since <strong>May 2008</strong>. Compare that to this statement by COL Collins:

<blockquote>By the spring of 2008, security incidents across Iraq had been reduced to a mere 15% of what they were at their pre-Surge high point.</blockquote>

Now contrast "lower" current casualties with what there could have been without non-Baathist Iraqi security forces that our presence created/trained. What could 2006-7 casualties have been without the 70 plus Joint Security Stations (COPs) that the Surge facilitated, the T-Walls that were emplaced (now gone), and checkpoints established that the Iraqi Army has not fully duplicated. What could casualties have been after the Mosque bombing in 2006 if we had not been in Iraq?

Consider the effect of our hands-off policy in Syria that has facilitated increased Sunni insurgents and foreign fighters in adjacent areas, encroaching into Iraq. Read a recent article about how Libya is deteriorating after our raiding actions left the a mission "not accomplished."

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/11/08/libya-on-the-brink-as-…

Say what you will about failures of this decade of stability operations (and whether we should have entered Iraq); if nothing else they established population-representative national security forces where previously no viable ones existed (except Baathist military or warlord militias). We already see radicals calling for attacks on Egypt's Army. Imagine the chaos if that military did not exist. Picture the chaos that would result in North Korea and its spillover into South Korea and China if that nation were suddenly to collapse. Do we seriously believe a lack of stability operations by our ground forces would help in that situation?

I return to the analogy of Texas with its 70,000 plus law enforcement and border protection forces. Do we declare victory, or grow tired and just leave Texas unprotected? Of course not. Neither can we raid Texas criminal activity with air or seapower or a few Texas Rangers and expect favorable outcomes. In large territories filled with chaos, only large ground forces can bring stability, facilitated by joint air and sea partners and SOF.

Those ground forces can be host nation most certainly. However, those forces were not viable in Iraq in late 2003 or in Afghanistan in early 2002 and SOF alone could not have trained them. There is no viable national military in Libya today. In Syria, regardless of which side wins, forces not representative of the majority of the population will be in charge. Syria's eventually triumphant military either will represent Alawite minorities with Iranian Hezbollah help, or Sunni extremists not representing other Syrian Sunni and Kurd people. If anyone believes either alternative will leave those and adjacent territories more stable, they are smoking funny stuff.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 11/08/2013 - 3:36pm

I have often said in responses here that many officers and staffs who served in Iraq did not understand the strategy of AQI and the largest Sunni insurgent group first the IAI and now the merged JRTN.

AQI had a series of rolling campaigns with targeted goals much like a BCT with it's campaign plan and LOOs.

BUT many in Iraq would often stamp their announcements as pure propaganda---AQI was talking to us and we refused to listen.

AQI now ISIL has announced their latest campaign (2012) which carried into 2013---notice how they understand when to declare victory.

The “Breaking the Walls” Campaign
On July 21, 2012, the emir of Al Qaeda in Iraq Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the start of a new campaign, which he named “Breaking the Walls.” In an online speech, he described its purpose as “refueling” his operations with additional manpower. He outlined two campaign objectives, namely, to secure the release of prisoners and to regain control of lost territory in Iraq. The 12-month campaign that ensued was characterized by 20 waves of simultaneous vehicle-borne explosive attacks, eight major prison attacks, and visible territorial consolidation within regions formerly controlled by al Qaeda. Each VBIED wave that we have tracked consisted of eight or more explosions on the same day. These waves became more frequent and lethal in the spring of 2013, with waves now occurring twice weekly in some cases. Total casualty levels for the month of July 2013 are already higher than in any other month since May 2008.

The 2013 phase of the “Breaking the Walls” campaign has been particularly focused upon attacks against Shi’a civilians in Baghdad in an apparent effort to stoke sectarian violence. This last phase has coincided with regional sectarian mobilization as al Qaeda affiliates and Iranian sponsored Shi’a militant groups have overtly demonstrated their involvement in the Syrian war.

But the primary purpose of the “Breaking the Walls” campaign never departed from its original goal of generating more manpower in Iraq through prison breaks. Al Qaeda in Iraq declared campaign victory this week with the release of 500 prisoners from Abu Ghraib.

Bwilliams

Thu, 11/07/2013 - 3:09pm

So in essence, we had a crappy situation in 2006 in which we helped for a short period. Great. Now we have a state that is in chaos and will not even stop weapons from moving across it to Syria. Saddam would have done that. How was the surge some big game changer, again? How did it change anything? If we came home in 2003, 2006, or or 2012, the result is the same. Chaos.

If anything, Iraq (and the surge) should tell the American military and American policy makers to rethink phase 4 and phase 5 operations. “If you break it, you need to fix it” is such a bad assumption. A limited war that was targeted at Iraq's possible WMD in 2003 would have been a preferred option. In other words, if you are worried about WMD, go in and remove that or at least the uncertainty that the state has that. A really big raid that did that and leaving would have been better than trying to execute the JOPP to phase 5. Would the chaos that resulted from that be better than the chaos we have now? If we do something with Iran, we should take these lessons in the planning of that operation. Who cares if Iran has regime change if they don't have the ability to effect the region or our interests with the threat of nuclear weapons. Just leave a note that we will come back if they try it again.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 11/08/2013 - 1:13pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Madhu---interesting article you found from 2011---buried in that are was the following para referencing Sunni militant activities in 2011;

Yet Sunni militants today operate in a far more controlled manner than in the past. They bomb Shi'ite markets and security forces, but refrain from the violent firefights and ambushes. The rivalries that divided various insurgent groups five years ago and led to rash competition for popular support are no longer in evidence. Whereas foreign fighters once fought openly with locals, they cooperate today.

There was an comment in the Iraq Oil News from May 2013 indicating that militants had attempted to capture towns in Diyala---the militants being named were the JRTN originally the IAI.

There is an inherent double mission going on inside Iraq today---ISIL/AQI conducting suicide bombings/car bombings and assassinations against Sunni Awakening leaders and the JRTN taking on the complex attacks.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 11/08/2013 - 9:45am

In reply to by JustAnotherDude

I know, right? But human nature is even more messy than any technological problem.

<blockquote>Saudi involvement in Iraq is deep and longstanding, dating back at least to supporting Saddam's war with Iran (1980-1988). Later, at the height of the insurgency, US intelligence detected money coming in from Sunni states in the region, though it wasn't clear if the money came from governments or prosperous individuals.

The Saudi government played an important role in easing the insurgency and sectarian violence that threatened to spread into other countries and expand Iranian power. Saudi diplomacy and money pressed the Dulayim tribes, a highly militarized confederation that straddles the Iraqi-Saudi border and predominates in Anbar province - the center of the insurgency. <strong>Saudi efforts, largely overshadowed by parallel US ones, greatly reduced the fighting.</strong></blockquote>

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MG27Ak01.html

Interesting timing on all the current Iraq violence.

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 11/08/2013 - 9:42am

In reply to by JustAnotherDude

Well, we all knew this but it's worth revisiting:

<blockquote>Now, Bush administration officials are voicing increasing anger at what they say has been Saudi Arabia’s counterproductive role in the Iraq war. They say that beyond regarding Mr. Maliki as an Iranian agent, the Saudis have offered financial support to Sunni groups in Iraq. Of an estimated 60 to 80 foreign fighters who enter Iraq each month, American military and intelligence officials say that nearly half are coming from Saudi Arabia and that the Saudis have not done enough to stem the flow.

One senior administration official says he has seen evidence that Saudi Arabia is providing financial support to opponents of Mr. Maliki. He declined to say whether that support was going to Sunni insurgents because, he said, “That would get into disagreements over who is an insurgent and who is not.”

(break)

Officials in Washington have long resisted blaming Saudi Arabia for the chaos and sectarian strife in Iraq, choosing instead to pin blame on Iran and Syria. Even now, military officials rarely talk publicly about the role of Saudi fighters among the insurgents in Iraq.

The accounts of American concerns came from interviews with several senior administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they believed that openly criticizing Saudi Arabia would further alienate the Saudi royal family at a time when the United States is still trying to enlist Saudi support for Mr. Maliki and the Iraqi government, and for other American foreign policy goals in the Middle East, including an Arab-Israeli peace plan.</blockquote>

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/27/world/middleeast/27saudi.html?pagewan…;

Our system believes in so many conflicting "interests" that it's impossible. But pruning back upsets some domestic constituency whether due to money-making or ideology so here we are. If you can write doctrine around that, more power to you.

JustAnotherDude

Thu, 11/07/2013 - 12:10pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Ha! Well, we had a PLAN for putting a man on the moon.

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 11/07/2013 - 11:43am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

How did the Saudi-Iranian rivalry play out in the "shadows" before and after the 2003 invasion?

<blockquote>The Islamic Army in Iraq was established after the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, though plans for its creation existed earlier, in anticipation of the invasion.[3]Reportedly one of the largest Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq, IAI's Islamist narrative is more inclusive than that of many other groups within the Iraqi jihadist movement.[4]Unlike Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and Ansar al-Islam (AI), IAI does not subscribe to the Salafist ideology (a fundamentalist interpretation of Sunni Islam).[5]Like AS Sharia,It includes members who espouse an Iraqi nationalist platform as well as an Islamic one. IAI is not only anti-coalition, but also anti-Iran. The group has conducted attacks against Iranian and Shiite interests throughout the course of the conflict, including the kidnapping and interrogation of an Iranian diplomat.[6],[7]</blockquote>

http://www.stanford.edu/group/mappingmilitants/cgi-bin/groups/view/5

And the "we're going to get nukes" drama is starting up again with the Saudis. And Iranians putting stop to pipelines to Pakistan/India.

Everyone looking for leverage, everyone in everybody's business. Put a man on the moon but can't figure out how to extricate ourselves from this mess. Sheesh.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 11/07/2013 - 10:29am

There is a core question that the legacy of a successful surge has not been able to answer.

If we fully understood the insurgency I am betting there would have been no need for a surge---ie I have been for awhile asking the question---just how is it that the Islamic Army of Iraq was able to go from a stumbling organization that was organizing after we got to Baghdad --able to start pushing various types of IEDs both components as well as actual devices-- both RC as well has timer armed in July 2003 to their cells? Three months after we arrived in Baghdad.

Also we never fully understood just how many insurgent cells we were facing which by Jan 2004 had exploded in numbers at least in Baghdad.

Handwritten notes in Arabic---Jan 2004;

We went to al-Jaza'ir district to rent a house for a company. We were surprised to learn that a competing company had rented 13-15 houses.
Companies are code for cells.

Handwritten notes in Arabic----July 2003

Air-conditioning protection system (It protects the system when the electricity is off) was tested. It will be sold.

Regarding the four systems, we will test them and sell them in Abu Ghrayb market.

Film completed

By Fed 2004, the IAI was a fully functioning phase two guerrilla operation stretching from Basra to Mosul and deeply established in Diyala.

Just how did we miss this?

JustAnotherDude

Tue, 11/05/2013 - 8:06am

The Sahwa began in Anbar province in mid- to late-2006, and the issuance of the famous "manifesto" on September 9, 2006. By the time General Petreaus came back to Iraq (February 2007), violence in Ramadi had dropped to 2003 levels and the movement was spreading to other locations, though it admittedly didn't take up steam in places like Baghdad until summer of 2007.

A statement like "(c)ertainly, the Sunni Awakening would have faltered if the United States were pulling out combat troops and heading for the exit" is a subtly loaded statement. It contains some truth but it is somewhat disingenuous given that the Sahwa occurred before a Surge was even announced as a tactic, let alone put into execution. There was a real belief by many Iraqis in 2006 that U.S. forces were indeed going to pull out troops and "head for the exit."

"Clausewitz reminded us that the results of war are not permanent, and the same can be said for successful strategic initiatives." Yet President Obama is advocating that Maliki revive the tactic (http://www.military.com/daily-news/2013/11/04/obama-pushes-for-return-o…)...

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 11/05/2013 - 4:48am

Another book for the ever expanding anti-library. Thanks for the review.

<em>Following Field Marshal Montgomery’s observation about Malaya, the President needed a new man and a new plan.</em>

The "new man" phenomenon seems so bound up with propaganda, press and presentation, especially to domestic publics and to allies, that I am incredibly curious about the whole thing.

From <em>War, Culture and the Media: Representations of the Military in 20th Century Britain:</em>

http://www.amazon.com/War-Culture-Media-Representations-Military/dp/083…

<blockquote>In Malaya and Cyprus, the military "supremos", Templer and Harding, were both inept in their handling of the press, with even Templer's sympathetic biographer noting that the General's personal relations with the press were singularly "unsuccessful".</blockquote>

I asked in a previous thread whether the presentation of the Malaya campaign was somehow caught up in the early Cold War propaganda "battles" taking place domestically and between allies (US, Britain, etc.), and the Soviet Union? How much of the campaign of the military "supremos" was deemed successful at the time, and how much was presented as successful even when understood as less so? What were official gaps in the narrative as understood <em>at the time</em> that might have needed managing?

From <em>Malaya: Communist or Free (Victor Purcell):</em>

<blockquote>The impact of General Templer upon Malaya was immediately felt. Only five days after his assumption of duties the Times Kuala Lumpur correspondent reported that he had approached his task with a military determination and speed which had heartened the people of Malaya and compared him with the late Marshall de Lattre de Tassigny.</blockquote>

During the communist period, press reports in various locations were manipulated at times by the communist and anti-communists. A lot of shaping of opinion must have gone on at the time, and since then. I find a fair amount about how this was presented to the British domestic public or in Malaya, but how about scholarship aimed at understanding the cooperation/competition paradigm of the early Cold War and the Western allies?

Outlaw 09

Thu, 11/07/2013 - 2:51pm

In reply to by JustAnotherDude

justanotherdude---thought you might like to see this--the militant group being mentioned here was in fact the JRTN.

By Adam al-Atbi of Iraq Oil Report
Published Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Local leaders in Diyala province say they have retaken a town held by a militant group, following deadly clashes last week.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 11/07/2013 - 4:10am

In reply to by JustAnotherDude

justanotherdude---to follow up on the JRTN/IAI----there is a very good research center at West Point (CTC) that has produced a very good series of journals on the Iraq insurgency---one I found excellent was the use of the various images in their videos and printed materials and what these images invoke in a jihadi. I could never anyone on the military or intelligence side to pay attention to the IO videos being released as they were viewed as propaganda---the insurgency was talking to us but we never got it.

But concerning your comment ---they did an article on the JRTN in 2011---titled something like JRTN and the coming insurgency.

The new insurgency is there and JRTN/IAI is leading it along side ISIL/AQI much like a number of us have been saying since 2005 when we became aware of the IAI and the close cooperation between two totally different insurgent groups.

If you have the chance download it---worth the read.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 11/05/2013 - 5:04pm

In reply to by JustAnotherDude

justanotherdude---you really bring up an interesting comment--we have from Mansoor, Kilcullen and Gen. P all new articles and or books being recently released.

I have a concept that historically one must fully understand the past in order to make assumptions for the future---ie from the surge worked to insurgencies will be fought in cities in the future.

This was on the SWJ journal today and if true 40% of Anbar is under their full control and they are making attacks into the cities---the reverse of what Kilcullen just released as a thesis. Anyone that knows the Iraqi insurgency understands that out of Anbar there are countless rat runs that were developed by both AQI/IAI and they are end in Baqubah/Diyala which the favorite pullback area for both of them during the 2004 to 2010 timeframe.

Even the US never really cleared all the palm groves---the density reminded me often of the jungles of VN.

Now a core problem often written about but largely ignored by the press is coming to be true ---ie we created the Iraqi security forces in our image with all of our limitations.

Iraq’s Anbar Province Once Again Becoming A Center For Insurgent Operations

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Iraq’s Anbar province used to be one of the centers of the insurgency, and it might be becoming one again. Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha recently told the press that 40% of the governorate was under the control of militants. Today there is a free flow of fighters back and forth across the Syrian border. Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is targeting the security forces and local politicians. More importantly, it is attempting to gain control of territory as there have been several assaults upon towns and cities this year. This has occurred despite the Iraqi security forces (ISF) announcing one operation after another. Its tactics of raids and retreats have proven largely ineffective, and the mass arrests that have taken place are counterproductive. Violence is picking up across many parts of Iraq, but Anbar is one specific area where insurgents are attempting to establish a permanent presence.

JustAnotherDude

Tue, 11/05/2013 - 4:22pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

You bring us to one of the biggest problems with Iraq analysis: we (the U.S., and probably Iraqi gov't) still don't know who our enemies really were, except in very specific circumstances, or how our tactics affected the insurgency, from the perspective of individuals in the insurgency, in many cases and locations and time-periods. A very critical, related issue that you allude to: who exactly are the people on the ground fighting against the Maliki gov't right now? Sure, today ISIS takes credit for a number of the most brutal, high-profile attacks, but...

A very obvious issue that hasn't been adequately tackled in the literature: if the U.S. paid off the tribes, and within a year violence ebbed by 90% or more (in some locations), who exactly were "the bad-guys?" How much of the insurgency was really controlled by individuals who took our money, spread it out to their fighters, and sat down for a breather for a couple of years?

Substantive answers (i.e., going to Iraqi prisons and interviewing hundreds of detainees, and/or going out to the tribes and doing the same thing, or finding current insurgents who are willing to be interviewed, which journalists could consistently find since 2004) to these questions and problems would have enormous effects our understanding our current and future strategies, tactics, doctrine, and even spending priorities within the military.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 11/05/2013 - 12:24pm

In reply to by JustAnotherDude

Justanotherdude---IAI and JRTN ran parallel to each other up to the US withdrawl---JRTN while carrying out some attacks was mainly involved in building itself up and structuring militarily and they introduced a number of new innovative ways of producing HME.

With the US withdrawal completed IAI issued is final CD titled Mission Complete, kept their website current up to late 2011 by uploading videos from other organizations ie Gaza and then slowly let the website disappear.

IAI/JRTN were one and the same organization founded even before we arrived in Iraq as a resistance group against Saddam---the shift to JRTN was due to the military reorg IAI went through as they felt at some point they would have to defend Sunni's against the Shia.

Now the interesting point is --- are the current waves of attack in Iraq really a resurgent AQI now ISIL or a mixture of AQI/ISIL carrying out the suicide attacks and JRTN carrying out the complex attacks which are actually very well planned and carried out.

AQI/IAI had a history of working with each other even if they were killing each other in 2006 early 2007---then they reached a truce and went back to working with each other.

JustAnotherDude

Tue, 11/05/2013 - 8:07am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

We cannot forget JRTN, who didn't exist in 2005 and by 2008 were the most dominant and influential insurgent organization in many locations in Iraq--or are you equating JRTN with the IAI?

Outlaw 09

Mon, 11/04/2013 - 2:48pm

In reply to by Gian P Gentile

Again I hate to disagree with both the views of Kilcullen and Mansoor---if AQI is resurgent and the number of wounded and killed Iraqi's has reached the levels last seen in 2008 I am not sure how one can define the Surge as a win.

While many are saying the AQI/ISIS is resurgent---what happened to the Islamic Army in Iraq the largest of the Sunni insurgent groupings who by 2009 had completely rearmed and refitted and was extremely well organized by our pullout.

Gian P Gentile

Mon, 11/04/2013 - 2:05pm

What is being "revisited" here? Joe Collins's review along with Pete Mansoor's new book is the same stock triumph narrative that has been in place since the end of 2007.