Saturday, July 07, 2007

Dead Enemies Don't Kill

I've mentioned that the surge is applying a different strategy which is key to making it work. Not that we didn't progress with prior strategies that focused on different problems, but under the current situation we needed this strategy. My worry for the surge was that we'd just plant troops in cities to protect the population passively.

Again, let me emphasize that this passive protection approach was my main criticism of past calls for an "oil spot" strategy of protecting civilians and minimizing efforts to go after the enemy in offensive operations:

It is not sufficient to just build walls and patrol secured areas as the spot activists want. For if the enemy roams free outside the oil spots, they will eventually hit the "secure" areas and then infiltrate them as the feeling of security is eroded by attacks on the enclaves.

The calculus of security is not merely dependent on one variable--beefing up our defenses. A good result includes reducing the enemy capacity to attack. Atomize the enemy and make them expend effort avoiding our attacks, and even partially trained defenders can handle the reduced threat. But let the enemy spend all its time planning and be free to mass when they want to strike, and we ensure that even American troops won't be sufficient to stop determined attacks from succeeding on occasion and providing propaganda victories for the enemy. Oil spots will shrink and be absorbed into the sands of Iraq with this strategy.

The campaign in the Baghdad belts to protect Baghdad is the key part that was missing from past oil spot plans. Read this report on the current surge operation:

Odierno explained, “Attacks occurring in Baghdad often originate in these outerlying regions. Sectarian lines begin to blur in these belts, creating a flashpoint for extremists looking to assert their control over Baghdad. Al Qaeda in Iraq and Shi’a extremists want to control these areas.” The Iraq Report has already documented the movement of fighters, weapons, and car bombs through the southern and northern belts.

General Odierno therefore developed a plan to improve Baghdad’s security in both the belts and in the city using all of the forces available to him as the Corps commander. Inside Baghdad, U.S. forces flowed from their Forward Operating Bases into the neighborhoods, where they occupied Joint Security Stations and Combat Outposts, creating a net of small units in the city. They followed the new counterinsurgency doctrine, maintaining a constant presence in the neighborhoods to provide security for the people living there. General Odierno established Joint Security Stations and Combat Outposts in Baghdad to improve security within the city’s borders. “This continuous presence is making the Iraqi people feel safer and has greatly increased the amount of information provided to the Iraqi army, police and coalition forces by the public.” In addition, General Odierno deployed brigades throughout the Baghdad belts in order to interdict the flow of fighters into the capital.

By the beginning of June, General Odierno had encircled Baghdad with Coalition Forces—not literally, with an unbroken chain of forces, but rather by placing brigades on every main road to and from the city. On June 15, 2007, General Odierno launched multiple, simultaneous, offensive operations around Baghdad in order to disrupt enemies surrounding the city. This Corps offensive is called Operation Phantom Thunder.
So while our operation is providing security in the belts by attacking the jihadis and Sadrists in the belts, the operations in the belts are primarily intended to protect Baghdad itself.

We are guarding Baghdad and we are going outside the perimeter of the city to disrupt the enemy trying to get to the city to kill innocents. This operation addresses my concerns about the oil spot strategy. Protect the people, by all means. But don't think that passive defenses are what ultimately protect the people.