Saturday, July 22, 2006

Battle for Baghdad

We either don't have enough troops in Baghdad or we aren't using them effectively. Although extra troops were sent to Baghdad to clamp down on the violence, after more than a month (?) the violence seems to be up in Baghdad. A lot of this is Shia death squads meting out revenge, mind you, and not just enemy attacks, so it is tough to just count deaths as a metric. But since both types of violence have to be suppressed it is hard not to conclude that the effort is not working.

It is hard to draw any other conclusion since the focus on Baghdad has not tamped down the violence. In an urban sprawling area of six million people from the three main groups, it is certainly a complex task. But it must be pacified or the fact that the rest of the country is mostly quiet will be lost in the film coverage of terror attacks and ethnic murders.

As a result we will deploy two brigades that could have been kept home to keep our brigades at 14 instead of dropping the total to 12 in September. [We did have 15, so when did one leave?]

And we will send a battalion held in reserve in Kuwait to Baghdad.

Perhaps 800 to 1,000 men is not that much in such a large city. If numbers are the issue, the Iraqis better send more troops and police in. If how we are using the troops is the problem, well that's rather a more difficult task, I'm afraid.

We shall see. And we shall see if the enemy can be suppressed without matching the enemy in the brutality of methods used. That's the only question, I fear--not whether the Shia-dominated government will win.

UPDATE: Strategypage explains that so far the effort isn't working. And says the reason is both not enough troops and not enough effective use of security forces:

The six week effort to bring down the mayhem rate in Baghdad did make it clear that, more people and better communications would make a difference.

Still, in one sense this is an effort that goes way beyond the enemy. There is lots of violence not associated with the enemy. But the wider random violence creates the image of widespread enemy violence:

No, the big problem is simply driving the common criminals off the streets. The Shia death squads, and Sunni Arab terrorists, are just components of the lawlessness that tormented Iraq even before Saddam was overthrown. In his last years, Saddam was using government sponsored thugs, and plain-old-criminals, to persecute real, or potential, rebels. Now, all these thugs are either out to simply steal and extort, or to settle old scores (the terrorists and death squads.)

The efforts to reduce the volence in Baghdad will continue. And until this violence is brought under control, it will be a constant source of enemy propaganda success and provide opportunities for sectarian violence.

UPDATE: The US and Iraq have agreed to rework our campaign in the capital city:

"Obviously the violence in Baghdad is still terrible and therefore there needs to be more troops," Bush said in a White House news conference with visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Al-Maliki, on his first trip to the United States since becoming prime minister two months ago, said he and Bush agreed that training and better arming Iraqi forces as quickly as possible, particularly in the capital city, was central to efforts to stabilize the country.

And remember, the difficulties we are having are because we won't use Saddam methods to crush opposition an a month of slaughter and then bulldoze 100,000 Iraqi Sunnis into mass graves. A growing number of Sunnis realize they are running out of time before Shias (with an assist from angry Kurds, too) insist on ending the Sunni violence regardless of the methods--and running out of time for our troops to remain in Iraq to stop the Shias from doing this.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Secretary Rumsfeld addresses our response. In addition to more American and Iraqi troops:

[They] have fashioned a proposal which calls for some increases in Iraqi security forces, a slight change in the mix, and some changes in the Ministry of Interior approach I think is the word.

He is focused very much on the reality, as we've discovered, that intelligence is central to success in this effort. It is -- it's not as though you're competing against big armies, navies and air forces where you can go out on the street and find the "enemy," quote/unquote, to go tackle because when you go out in the street, they disappear.

And so it is -- it is a situation that requires a healthy intelligence capability, the support of the Iraqi people, the linkages between the intelligence community and the Ministry of Defense forces and the Ministry of Interior forces and coalition forces. And so strengthening the ministries is important.

This is war. The other side acts and reacts. So do we.