Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Calm Down and Add it Up

UPDATE AT THE TOP: Welcome Daily Koz readers. Man, that's not anything I thought I'd ever write. This post has been mis-represented. I am not arguing for genocide. I am noting that the traditional military way of defeating insurgents is to kill lots of the enemy population. Like Saddam did in southern Iraq in 1991, just as an example. We don't do that. We will try to pacify Anbar and that is not a military solution. So we must wait for Iraqi forces and governmental entities to move into Anbar. Our military holds the line until then.

And if the Sunnis foolishly still won't end their terror campaign when we are no longer there, I am just noting that the Iraqi government might choose something closer to the traditional method. So do read the entire post and don't rely on the excerpts.

Oh, and if it is too tough to read the whole post as a single piece, try this post from several months ago where I explicitly argue against brutal tactics to subdue Anbar for both reasons of honor and practicality.


Recent reports that Anbar province is not being pacified by our troops out there are probably accurate. I've noted the problems we've had in subduing the region. The Post article says:

The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents.

Anbar was largely ignored except for air strikes until the months leading up to the 2005 constitution referendum. We've been trying to move in with our forces over the last year to knock down the Sunni gunmen and allow Iraqi forces to set up and police the region. Thus far, we haven't had enough success in getting effective Iraqi forces out west.

But this does not mean the battle is lost. The enemy is resisting. They do that. That's why they aren't friends. And it is true that this is not a military problem but a political one. Short of killing every third military age man out there we won't be able to subdue the enemy in Anbar. All we can do is hold the line and buy time while the Iraqi government builds the capability to move into Anbar in force to subdue the enemy. The Iraqis will have more street smarts in identifying bad guys without guns in their hands. And the Iraqis will be able to make deals with the local tribal leaders (as some tribes have done already). More ominously, if the Sunnis won't deal, the Iraqi government will be able to kill every third man of military age in the province if that is what it takes to end the terrorism.

We may not be winning with our troops, but it is no surprise we aren't. Our Left used to say that the military is no solution to any problem but now seem to think only a military solution is credible in Anbar? What gives with that?

Strategypage writes of Anbar:

The Baath Party (pro-Saddam) Sunni Arab nationalists still have thousands of fighters in play, backed by cash and fear of prosecution for terrorist acts (going back to Saddam's days). Add to that hundreds of al Qaeda, and thousands of diehard Sunni Arab tribesmen in Anbar, plus a population that will not accept foreigners (including Kurds and Shia Arab Iraqis) with guns among them, and you have the wild, wild west. May not stay that way for long, though. Despite the losses, the government is willing to keep sending troops and special police battalions to Anbar. Month by month, there are more Iraqi security forces able to handle Anbar. Meanwhile, the tribes are not getting any stronger. Do the math. And remember that there's a growing attitude among the majority of Iraqis (Kurds and Shia), that the country would be better off with no Sunni Arabs at all. This is never even brought up by the government, but it commonly heard on the street, where the police and soldiers are recruited from.

We aren't losing in Anbar. But we aren't winning militarily, either. That should be no shock given the task and our limitations. Other factors are working in our favor, however, even as there is military stalemate in Anbar.

Think of a front where three brigades are holding on line and you control the center brigade. The enemy is on the offensive and in your center brigade sector, you are holding the enemy off. You haven't driven the enemy off but you are holding here. But your sector is not the whole front. On your left flank, your sister brigade is being hammered and pushed back. On your right, the enemy has punched a hole in the front and armor is streaming through. Your success is local and will become irrelevant as the flanks collapse.

So the enemy in Anbar is holding the line in Anbar. This alone is progress from our point of view compared to the first two years of the post-major combat operations phase of the war when we didn't contest the region on the ground. But today, as the Iraqi government and its security forces grow in size and experience, the enemy's right flank is being broken as more Iraqi forces push toward the main front. And on the left, the Shias and Kurds are growing weary of playing footsy with the Sunnis in the hope the Sunnis will make a deal. That barrier could collapse at any time and then the Sunnis will be in a world of hurt if that happens.

Counter-insurgency has a military component but it is primarily a political problem absent an extermination campaign (and that only settles the problem for a generation). Our military can buy time for the political track and that is what we are doing. That, and atomizing the enemy so the Iraqi military can handle the threat. It isn't a matter of more troops in Anbar. It is a matter of Iraqi troops and a government presence being planted in the province to push the neutrals to side with the government and push the enemy to slide into neutrality or even pro-government attitudes.

The Marines state they have enough for their mission of training Iraqis to do the job:

Marine Maj. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer told reporters in a telephone interview from his headquarters in Fallujah, he has enough troops to do the training mission. In the long run it will require greater progress toward political reconciliation among rival Sunni and Shiite sects before the insurgency is undermined, he said.

"I've got the force levels I need right now," Zilmer said. "My mission out here, along with the rest of the force, is to develop the ISF (Iraqi security forces), and I think we have the appropriate force levels to do that. Now, if that mission statement changes — if there is seen a larger role for coalition forces out here to win that insurgency fight — then that is going to change the metrics of what we need out here."

Thirty thousand Marines and soldiers are fighting in a province of 1.3 million people. Or 2.3%. I imagine that to really grind down the enemy there we'd need 4%, or 52,000. I doubt that Iraqi forces amount to more than 20% of our forces so add no more than 6,000 Iraqis to ours for a total of 36,000. But with the Iraqi security forces growing and other areas outside of Baghdad calming down, I have no doubt that the Iraqi government will be able to send 50-60,000 security forces to the region in time. This represents only about 10% of the nearly 500,000 Iraqi security personnel (army, national and local police, and facility protection forces). We will get the trained Iraqis out west in time even as we hold the line against the enemy.

Then the last stubborn holdouts will be killed, arrested, or driven from Iraq. Have patience, people, and let the Iraqis win.

Calm down and put away the white flags. We face problems in Iraq--not defeat.