Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
What happens in Iraq now?
I provided some thoughts to Joshua Keating latest Foreign Policy article
, "What's the difference between combat and non-combat troops?"
Here's my extended thoughts or better seen as where the magic horses fly. I'm hoping that you will respond and concur or non-concur with detailed explanation.
What is changing in Iraq on Aug 31?
Before I address the initial question, it is essential that I explain the real, looming threat that face the Iraqi people. This threat is themselves. A lot of anger, hate, and fear remain that potentially
could lead to an outbreak of civil war once the United States leaves. Contrastingly, the other concern is a dictator resuming power. Neither option is desired by the US, and our political and military advisors will make effort to avoid such outcomes through conflict resolution, negotiation, and bargaining.
So, what is changing on Aug 31?
Honestly, not much. We're attempting the same goal we've been attempting ever since we finished the Thunder Runs- end the mission and go home. As far back as 2005, some of my friends that are military planners were trying to determine how to get all of our stuff
(personnel, equipment, bases) back home. The President makes his goal clear in the beginning of his speech, "Already, we have closed or turned over to Iraq hundreds of bases...By the end of this month, we’ll have brought more than 90,000 of our troops home from Iraq since I took office—more than 90,000."
So, what will the military be doing?
The President explains that we will be, "supporting and training Iraqi forces, partnering with Iraqis in counterterrorism missions, and protecting our civilian and military efforts." I'll attempt to
translate. For two historical examples, one could refer to Plan Colombia or the operation in the Phillipines (OEF-P) where the USG assist a sovereign nation in political, military, economic, and
1. Supporting and training Iraqi forces. Broadly speaking, we define this effort in two categories: 1. Foreign Internal Defense (FID) 2. Security Force Assistance (SFA). Simply put, we're attempting to recruit, train, equip, and employ an Iraqi Army and Police force capable of maintaining the internal peace and securing the state's borders.
1a. FID. Traditionally the bread and butter of Special Forces "Green Berets," our variant of FID in Iraq is often labeled "partnering." For initial recruits, we conduct basic training in centers in Iraq and Jordan. We continue to train platoons, companies, and battalions in an attempt to institutionalize lasting, permanent structures. This training involves combat patrolling. Military advisors will go on combat patrols and raids where they will be exposed to hostile fire.
This translates that we will continue to have casualties. Soldiers and Marines will die and become severely wounded during these daily operations; however, it will be to a much lesser degree than the really bad days in Iraq. Moreover, the Iraqis are still dependent on us for air support, UAVs, artillery, and medical assistance. Advisors must help coordinate these actions.
1b. Security Force Assistance. This Orwellian term describes all the other stuff that we do for the Iraqi military. We're handing over tons of equipment (HMMWVs, weapons, communication gear, permanent structures, etc). In order for this stuff to not go to waste and rust, we have to teach the Iraqis how to care and maintain the equipment. It starts with teaching the mechanics to fix, the engineers to build, and the communications dudes to talk. The bulk of the US military effort will be focused on this venture.
2. Partnering with Iraqis in counterterrorism missions. Special Operations Forces (SOF) will continue to hunt down Sunni and Shia extremists. USG intelligence assets will foster and prepare our internal Iraqi sources to continue information and intelligence collection in Iraq long after the US effort is diminished.
3. Protecting our civilian and military efforts. Just as we maintain an Army garrison in Germany, Korea, and formerly Kuwait, the United States will have a standby reaction force capable of quelling civil unrest and external intervention in Iraq when the threat exceeds the
capabilities of the Iraqi Army. We can expect US military forces along the religious and ethnic fault lines (Mosul, Kirkuk, and Diyala Province) as well as Baghdad prepared to intervene as necessary.
"So just to be clear, there's not actually an official distinction between "combat" and "non-combat" troops? There aren't operations that units can't carry out if they are designated "non=combat?" Yes and No.
On the one hand, the USG will probably declare an end to armed conflict or something to that effect. This official phrase will be used to come to terms with the specifics of the SOFA, acknowledge Iraq's sovereignty, and state our intentions to the international community. The USG may state that all military personnel are moving from a "combat" to a "non-combat", peacekeeping role. You'll have to ask around for the specifics. I don't really follow that stuff. It is irrelevant in my world. That is described further below in "on the other hand."
Dating back to late 2008, at the tail end of the Surge, increased restrictions were placed on US Forces specifically limiting movement and mission type. For instance, in certain areas, USF could not conduct a raid unless approval was granted by an Iraqi judge. We can expect to see many more restrictions on when and what we're allowed to do, and how we are allowed to do it. I would suspect most unilateral operations would be SOF driven and covert, well under the radar on
specific targets that pose a significant threat to the GoI.
For an example of what we could possibly see, again, do a quick review of Colombia and the Phillipines. US Congress and the host nation's governments limit how many advisors can be in country, where, when, and what they can train, and their rules of engagement.
This will be the official policy. I would guess that 60-80% of military forces remaining in Iraq do not leave the FOBs on a regular basis unless there is a catastrophic failure (i.e. Al-Askari Mosque,
On the other hand, in an armed conflict, particularly a nasty small war, one side cannot just declare that hostilities are over. The real world does not work like that. Al Qaeda, Sunni Rejectionist, the Mahdi Militia, Badr Corps, and the Accidental Guerrilla with a grudge have not gotten the memo.
When an advisor leads a patrol, he better maintain the same posture that we would in 2003, 2006, or 2009. Combat is combat regardless of what the politicians call it. When someone starts shooting at you or blowing stuff up, you can't broadcast on a microphone that they're not
supposed to do that anymore because we decided the war was over.
And that leads to the more pressing issues- State and Private Military Contractors (PMCs). Now that we are hopefully moving towards the political process, State Department should assume more control if not all of the US mission. As the Army continues to drawdown, security for State will be further placed into the hands of PMCs. Most PMCs are good folks; however, we have some bad apples. I'm sure that many are well aware of the allegations against Blackwater.
Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-05-2010 at 02:04 PM.
Reason: Change spacing to shorten quote and author changed following request