260 attacks. So what does this mean? Well, one diplomat noted:
"What was significant about these attacks was the low degree of lethality," the diplomat said. "These were very low casualties for that number of attacks."
They weren't very effective? Wouldn't the insurgents have thrown in every cell they had? I find it hard to believe that this wouldn't be a maximum effort. The enemy seems to have realize the danger of popular legitimacy to their sick cause. And this indicates the enemy did go all out:
"They were throwing inexperienced, unprepared ... people in a mass effort to try to do something, to get through, to penetrate, to make a big splash, and they did not succeed anywhere."
Since so many of the second string were involved based on the evidence of inexperience, this was probably a maximum effort by the insurgents. How could there be evidence of green insurgents? Aren't jihadis flocking to Iraq to fight us? Well not from Europe as we had been told before:
The fall of Saddam Hussein in March 2003 and the U.S. occupation of the country would have seemed an opportunity of a lifetime for Muslim men around the world eager to wage their 'holy war' against their arch enemy.
Yet the influx of foreign fighters from Europe appears to have been minimal, at least compared with the numbers that poured into previous lands of jihad, or holy war - Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya.
So how many insurgents are indicated by 260 attacks? In a maximum effort where the greener elements were involved, were all the insurgent cells involved? Half? How many attacks did each cell launch? Most were in the Baghdad region so a cell could have multiple attacks. Assuming each cell struck twice, that gives us 130 cells. If half attacked on election day (and that seems low given the stakes) that means there are 260 cells. How many men per cell? Ten? That gives us 2,600 insurgents. One hundred per cell? That gives us 26,000 insurgents. A cell of 10 makes far more sense than a cell of 100 from a security perspective. Especially since we haven't seen platoon-sized insurgent attacks (30-50 men) in a long time. So we are probably looking at the low end of fewer than 3,000 insurgents if my wild ass guesses above are reasonably accurate. I assume our military has better methods of calculating strength based on attacks.
I expected worse on January 30th. I expected the insurgents to make a maximum effort and that many civilians would die. I expected the elections to go forward but the low losses when such soft targets were all over Iraq indicates that the insurgents have problems.
I speculated on the nature of the potential enemy collapse back in November 2004. At some point, the enemy will fail to do something that we anticipated they would do. When they didn't, we wouldn't immediately see the importance of this fact. My example was the Iran-Iraq War and the failure of the Iranian Karbala V offensive in the 1986-1987 winter. That offensive broke the back of Iran's ground forces and their fanaticism. It took a long time before observers figured out that something was wrong with Iran.
So did something just go wrong with the enemy? Could this really be the turning point despite the worries that the enemy will try even harder after the election to launch attacks? If they are capable of future attacks why didn't they have more success on January 30th?
At some point the enemy will collapse. At some point the Baathists will start preparing for defeat the way North Korean spies seem to be doing (see previous post). It is too soon to tell if this is the right way of looking at Iraq, but don't rule it out.
We will win.