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Thread: U.S. Strategy on Sunnis Questioned

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    Default U.S. Strategy on Sunnis Questioned

    18 June Washington Post - U.S. Strategy on Sunnis Questioned by Joshua Partlow.

    Shiite and Kurdish officials expressed deep reservations on Sunday about the new U.S. military strategy of partnering with Sunni Arab groups to help defeat the militant organization al-Qaeda in Iraq.

    "They are trusting terrorists," said Ali al-Adeeb, a prominent Shiite lawmaker who was among many to question the loyalty of the Sunni groups. "They are trusting people who have previously attacked American forces and innocent people. They are trusting people who are loyal to the regime of Saddam Hussein."

    Throughout Iraq, a growing number of Sunni groups profess to have turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq because of its indiscriminate killing and repressive version of Islam. In some areas, these groups have provided information to Americans about al-Qaeda in Iraq members or deadly explosives used to target soldiers.

    The collaboration has progressed furthest in the western province of Anbar, where U.S. military commanders enlisted the help of Sunni tribal leaders to funnel their kinsmen into the police force by the thousands. In other areas, Sunnis have not been fully incorporated into the security services and exist for the time being as local militias...

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SWJED View Post
    18 June Washington Post - U.S. Strategy on Sunnis Questioned by Joshua Partlow.
    I wonder what Mr. Ali al-Adeeb's position is on Sadr and the other Shiite militas?

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    Default U.S. Widens Push to Use Armed Iraqi Residents

    28 July Washington Post - U.S. Widens Push to Use Armed Iraqi Residents by Ann Scott Tyson.

    The U.S. military in Iraq is expanding its efforts to recruit and fund armed Sunni residents as local protection forces in order to improve security and promote reconciliation at the neighborhood level, according to senior U.S. commanders.

    Within the past month, the U.S. military command in charge of day-to-day operations in Iraq ordered subordinate units to step up creation of the local forces, authorizing commanders to pay the fighters with U.S. emergency funds, reward payments and other monies.

    The initiative, which extends to all Iraqis, represents at least a temporary departure from the established U.S. policy of building formally trained security forces under the control of the Iraqi government. It also provokes fears within the Shiite-led government that the new Sunni groups will use their arms against it, commanders said...

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    Council Member T. Jefferson's Avatar
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    I believe that this type of program has been used successfully in the past as part of COIN efforts. The basic idea is to allow a community to protect itself, not to create a deployable military/police force.

    Think NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH with muscles.
    Sun Tzu said: The art of war is of vital importance to the State.

    It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to
    ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be
    neglected.

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    Council Member Abu Buckwheat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by T. Jefferson View Post
    I believe that this type of program has been used successfully in the past as part of COIN efforts. The basic idea is to allow a community to protect itself, not to create a deployable military/police force.

    Think NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH with muscles.
    I hope this works but having been suckered before by the insurgents those three words are always on my lips as a caution ... 'Fallujah Protection Brigade.'
    Putting Foot to Al Qaeda Ass Since 1993

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    Quote Originally Posted by T. Jefferson View Post
    I believe that this type of program has been used successfully in the past as part of COIN efforts. The basic idea is to allow a community to protect itself, not to create a deployable military/police force....
    Unfortunately, this type of program has more often been implemented and failed abjectly, with varying degrees of negative impact, from local and short-term to regional-and-national mid-to-long term problems. For a good look at a bad program, you need only look a bit north and review the implemenation and results of Turkey's village guard progam during the height of their war against the PKK in the '90s.

    However, with a society in Iraq that is already fragmented beyond simple sectarian down to tribal, clan and family lines, this poses a more serious danger of further rupturing national politics into decentralized local militia rule. (or rather speeding up and entrenching the process; it is already occurring) Like much else that has occurred over the past few years, I smell short-term expediency trumping long-term effectiveness, along with any real hope of achieving sustainable stability. To me, this move smacks of desperation, as our efforts to stand up Iraqi police, military and other security elements still fails to meet the fundamental security needs of the population.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    In Iraq, a Perilous Alliance with Former Enemies - Washington Post, 4 Aug.

    Inside a brightly lit room, the walls adorned with memorials to 23 dead American soldiers, Lt. Col. Robert Balcavage stared at the three Sunni tribal leaders he wanted to recruit.

    Their fighters had battled U.S. troops. Balcavage suspected they might have attacked some of his own men. The trio accused another sheik of having links to the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq. That sheik, four days earlier, had promised the U.S. military to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq and protect a strategic road.

    "Who do you trust? Who do you not trust?" said Balcavage, commander of the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 25th Infantry Division, his voice dipping out of earshot.

    An hour later, he signed up some of America's newest allies.

    U.S. commanders are offering large sums to enlist, at breakneck pace, their former enemies, handing them broad security powers in a risky effort to tame this fractious area south of Baghdad in Babil province and, literally, buy time for national reconciliation ...

    Balcavage stared around the room. Fahad, Khadr and a third Jenabi leader, Falah Khadr Muhammad, sat on one side along with three other tribesmen. Farther down the table was a thick-bearded American civilian and former Special Forces soldier.

    And next to Balcavage: Fadhil Youssef, a former Sunni insurgent who had spent six months in a U.S. military detention center. He was Balcavage's conduit into the arcane world of Iraq's tribes. Balcavage said he trusted him.

    Speaking through an interpreter, the commander made his offer to the sheiks. Each of their men would receive about $350 a month. That pay would create an incentive to join the Iraqi police, whose salary is roughly $500, when it was possible, he said. The military would also pay the sheiks $100 for every bomb plucked off the roadside ...

    They immediately accused Sheik Sabah of having links to al-Qaeda in Iraq and of playing a role in driving them off their lands.

    "Sheik Sabah represents the leaders of al-Qaeda who did the killing," Fahad said.

    Balcavage asked Fahad whether Sabah belonged to the Islamic Army, which is fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq, or to al-Qaeda in Iraq itself.

    "Al-Qaeda," Fahad replied. Sabah, he alleged, claimed to have switched allegiances to the Islamic Army as a way to make himself more attractive to the Americans.

    Perplexed, Balcavage looked at Youssef. It had been less than two weeks, but two rival factions already had arisen within the "concerned citizens." Sabah had formed a group called the VIP Council. Youssef's was called the Iraq Rescue Council.

    ...

    Balcavage said he didn't know whether Youssef and other sheiks were trying to poison the military's relationship with Sabah. On July 23, Sabah signed an initial contract to provide 300 men and guard a key supply route to Fallujah and Baghdad.

    "The only thing I know is my experience with Fadhil," said Balcavage, referring to Youssef. "I'm trusting my gut. I could be horribly wrong in this situation."

    And what about Sabah? Was Balcavage worried about the al-Qaeda in Iraq allegations?

    "I'm going to reel him in," Balcavage said. "To keep your enemy close type of thing. Feel him out. I'm going to see how many contacts, how much information I can find out from him. I'll bring his tribe in, if nothing else, and make sure all the agreements get signed."

    On Thursday, a group of senior-ranking sheiks made contact with U.S. commanders to become "concerned citizens."

    Sabah is their representative.

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    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    Default Tribe Trumps Everything

    This is a tribal society. It has been for something like 4.000 years. Any "solution" that does not account for that will fail. I have listened to commanders talk about this issue and complain that by creating these neighborhood watches, we are creating tribal militias at the expense of the IA and IP and we are diminishing the power of the centralized elected regional government. That argument completely ignores the fact that the IA, the IP and the centralized elected regional government also have tribal ties and loyalties. Even Saddam Hussein had to make deals with the more powerful tribes. Either we co-opt the tribes into working with us, or at least in the same direction, or we go home.

    SFC W

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Totally true...

    Reality is such a pain...

    It'll take two generations, minimum, to build a truly nationally loyal Iraqi security forces structure.

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    Council Member Dominique R. Poirier's Avatar
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    For the record and from recollection.

    It seems to me that this has been attempted first during the Vietnam War. The idea would have been suggested and put underway by William Colby himself some years before he was named as Director of the C.I.A.
    This idea was considered as foolish and even crazy at that time, as many would say today.

    I don't remember in which year this story happened. Sorry. But this I remember about it is that Vietnamese civilians living in remote small villages had to be provided with arms and ammunitions in order to let them defend by their own against Việt Minhs.

    I don’t clearly remember to which scale the idea was put underway and how successful it proved to be. But this info gives a lead about anteriority searches. At least I am pretty sure that further historical information about this story can be found in Honorable Men: My Life in the CIA, by William Colby, 1978.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dominique R. Poirier View Post
    For the record and from recollection.

    It seems to me that this has been attempted first during the Vietnam War. The idea would have been suggested and put underway by William Colby himself some years before he was named as Director of the C.I.A.
    This idea was considered as foolish and even crazy at that time, as many would say today.

    I don't remember in which year this story happened. Sorry. But this I remember about it is that Vietnamese in remote small village had to be provided with arms and ammunitions in order to let them defend by their own against Việt Minhs.

    I donít clearly remember to which scale the idea was put underway and how successful it proved to be. But this info gives a lead about anteriority searches. At least I am pretty sure that further historical information about this story can be found in Honorable Men: My Life in the CIA, by William Colby, 1978.
    This actually happened with some regularity and in a variety of locations in SNV, Dominique. It was done with Catholic refugees from the North, a variety of Montagnard tribes, and some other elements as well. The 'Yard effort was quite successful, but ran into problems from the SVN government. Seems no one bothered to determine that Vietnamese in general (north and south) didn't care much for 'Yards, and that they returned the dislike. Still, the SF border camps did play a role during much of the war, and 'Yards served with distinction on SOG teams throughout the region.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    This is a tribal society. It has been for something like 4.000 years. Any "solution" that does not account for that will fail. I have listened to commanders talk about this issue and complain that by creating these neighborhood watches, we are creating tribal militias at the expense of the IA and IP and we are diminishing the power of the centralized elected regional government. That argument completely ignores the fact that the IA, the IP and the centralized elected regional government also have tribal ties and loyalties. Even Saddam Hussein had to make deals with the more powerful tribes. Either we co-opt the tribes into working with us, or at least in the same direction, or we go home.

    SFC W
    While I do not disagree with your point about the IP and the IA, this is a circular argument. Because of the loyalty issue we are creating counter forces to the others and you bet your bottom dollar that is weakening any pretense of a government built on democratic lines. Since building such a government was among the litany of reasons for this effort, proceeding down this tribal path merely demonstrates the futility of the democracy effort in the first place.

    Yes Saddam bought off the tribes. His tribe the Tikritis enjoyeed pride of tribal place. He also ruled with a degree of cruelty needed to keep the tribes in line as well as the larger issues of sectarian and ethnic divisions. We will not do that and that always was the number one tool for persuasion in Saddam's tool box.

    Reality is such a pain...

    It'll take two generations, minimum, to build a truly nationally loyal Iraqi security forces structure.
    Ken I would say 2 if not more to even get the ideas across.

    Best

    Tom

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default The loyalty issue is the principal reason it'll take

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    While I do not disagree with your point about the IP and the IA, this is a circular argument. Because of the loyalty issue we are creating counter forces to the others and you bet your bottom dollar that is weakening any pretense of a government built on democratic lines. Since building such a government was among the litany of reasons for this effort, proceeding down this tribal path merely demonstrates the futility of the democracy effort in the first place.

    Yes Saddam bought off the tribes. His tribe the Tikritis enjoyeed pride of tribal place. He also ruled with a degree of cruelty needed to keep the tribes in line as well as the larger issues of sectarian and ethnic divisions. We will not do that and that always was the number one tool for persuasion in Saddam's tool box.



    Ken I would say 2 if not more to even get the ideas across.

    Best

    Tom
    time, there are others but that's the big one. I don't think we have much choice at this time due to our internal politics other than to buy off and play them against one another in the short term even while fully realizing that mitigates against our long term effort. They realize that as well. People aren't being stupid, just sensible.

    Reality sometimes intrudes on what is right or desirable, in any war it often does -- as we all know but would like to forget...

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    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    While I do not disagree with your point about the IP and the IA, this is a circular argument. Because of the loyalty issue we are creating counter forces to the others and you bet your bottom dollar that is weakening any pretense of a government built on democratic lines. Since building such a government was among the litany of reasons for this effort, proceeding down this tribal path merely demonstrates the futility of the democracy effort in the first place.
    Not neccessarily. There is a middle ground. The IA and the IPs generally focus on the big cities and towns. There is an awful lot of ground that doesn't fall under that definition in Iraq. That is where I would think athat the neighborhood watches come in. It's not perfect but it is a start. In any case, if you want to truly build a democratic society in a Iraq you will have to start by co-opting the tribes, and then build from there. If you try to build it without them then you threaten the power of the Sheiks and they will shut you down.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    Yes Saddam bought off the tribes. His tribe the Tikritis enjoyeed pride of tribal place. He also ruled with a degree of cruelty needed to keep the tribes in line as well as the larger issues of sectarian and ethnic divisions. We will not do that and that always was the number one tool for persuasion in Saddam's tool box.

    That is kind of my point. Even with all his cruelty, Saddam still had to deal with the tribes. Since we do not have the option of brutality then we absolutely have to deal with the tribes.


    SFC W

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    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Reality sometimes intrudes on what is right or desirable, in any war it often does -- as we all know but would like to forget...
    I am always shocked and amazed by the number of people I see at all levels who plan based on the way things SHOULD be instead of the way things ARE. And that's not just Iraq. That is everywhere. It just kills me.

    SFC W

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    Default Dominique--Weapons for the Citizenry

    Colby's brainchild was People's Self Defence Force (PSDF), created in 1968.

    As for the Montagnard Program (CIDG) Blair mentioned, you'd be hard put to find an historian who considers it a "loser." But it did manifest problems inherent to arming a resentful minority with separatist aspirations, especially when our CIDG strikers (1964??) decided to shoot at "our" (ARVN) Vietnamese. These Montagnards were affiliated with FULRO, a secessionist political movement. US leadership prevailed and got the situation under contol. The key to the success of the program was US leadership, although this did nothing to generate any tribal loyalty toward the national government, for sure. A question that might be worth asking is to what extent, if any, the subject Iraq program is slated to have US embeds, to better ensure even short term benefit.

    As for PSDF, Colby locked horns with Robert Thompson over this one, not only because of the possibility that the pogram might abet centrifugal forces, but because of practical concerns that youthful thugs in PSDF might wind up robbing or raping their fellow citizens at gunpoint, or would turn their guns over to the VC. Colby prevailed and the PSDF came into being. In the event, to the surprise of many, while these abuses did occur, they were the exception. The program was cumpulsory for 16 and 17 year old males and for those (39-50) over draft age, and was to be implemented in all rural hamlets as well as urban neighborhoods. This militia, under the village chief, was to serve as a statement of political commitment by the populace, involving some personal risk, while the government was expected to be perceived as taking a risk as well, in trusting its citizenry with weapons. Using PSDF for the actual military defence of a location would constitute a considerable deviation from the intended purpose, yet there were more than a few occasions (usually reflecting the general state of security in the hamlet) in which PSDF found themselves the main defenders facing a ground assault by a superior enemy force, and in which they did fight, often sustaining grievous losses. In other locales, where local ties to the VC ran deeper, there were some instances of PSDF defections under pressure of an enemy offensive.

    Personal experience is by definition anecdotal, and I am reminded of making the rounds very late in 1974, when detrerioration was in the air, in a village in Binh Chanh District, Gia Dinh Province, which bordered on the Capital Special Zone (i.e., Saigon-Cholon). The village chief's tale of woe included a recent battle (unreported) in which the RF had suffered 3 dozen KIA (hell of an eye opener, I mean listening to this). And the PSDF later came to the village office en masse and turned in their weapons to him. They weren't about to become traitors; they were simply scared s---less.

    Cheers,
    Mike.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Uboat509:Not neccessarily. There is a middle ground. The IA and the IPs generally focus on the big cities and towns. There is an awful lot of ground that doesn't fall under that definition in Iraq. That is where I would think athat the neighborhood watches come in. It's not perfect but it is a start. In any case, if you want to truly build a democratic society in a Iraq you will have to start by co-opting the tribes, and then build from there. If you try to build it without them then you threaten the power of the Sheiks and they will shut you down.
    Again, I do not disagree with your points on the tribes. But I am extending to the larger political strategy and the huge gap between what is a security and reality driven measure to work with and acrively arm the tribes and the political strategy that is nominally trying to keep Iraq together. The reality has intruded in the military realm but fallen behind in the political. We are pursuing countervailing courses.

    Meanwhile none of what you and I have exchanged so far even touches on US political reality. We do not have the 2 generations Ken White talked about. We have 1-2 years maybe at any sizable tropp commitment.


    Since we do not have the option of brutality then we absolutely have to deal with the tribes.
    Exactly. That is the reality. When do we alter the end state of our political strategy to recognize an extremely federal Iraq or a true division? That is the geo-political reality that is not reflected in the current state of affairs. So when you talk about people who look at things as they should be versus how they actually are, that symptom is very much in play when we ignore this disconnect.

    Best

    Tom
    Last edited by Tom Odom; 08-07-2007 at 02:08 PM.

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    Default A general uprising against al Qaeda

    I think we are riding the crest of a general uprising among the tribes against al Qaeda and its allies. This post describes a recent action in Iraq:

    Fed up with violent and indiscriminate terror tactics, a group of more than 80 residents of the Adhamiyah district, on the east side of the Iraqi capital, banded together Sunday to oust suspected terrorists from a local mosque.

    The uprising led to a string of events over the next 12 hours that ultimately resulted in the arrest of 44 suspected terrorists and the capture of three weapons caches.

    The initial takeover of the Abu Hanifa Mosque occurred at about 2 p.m., apparently triggered by news that terrorists had murdered two relatives of a prominent local sheik. As the news spread, angry residents joined the sheik to storm the mosque, long believed to be a sanctuary for terrorists operating in the area, and ousted the suspected terrorists inside from the building.
    It was after the uprising that the Iraqi Army and the US came in to take tips from the angry residents that led to finding even more weapons caches. I think it can be argued that what we are doing with the tribes is an attempt to manage and channel this anger against our common enemy. This grass roots action is not just limited to Sunni tribes. Several Shia tribes have already done the same thing. While the US military is adapting to this new grass roots reality, it appears the Iraqi government and many in our congress are being left behind by events.

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