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Old 01-04-2007   #1
jcustis
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Default Thoughts on a possible "surge" in Iraq

We need to develop and articulate the end state at the same time that the deploy orders are drafted. The IO campaign on this needed to start yesterday, and it needs to be the Iraqi government’s message as much as it may be ours.

The short-term end state has to be establishing security for the common man. A hat tip to the old hands at the SWC who made the light bulb go on in my brain housing group with regard to this point, and one to Jedburgh for being spot on with every post he's made regarding security. It goes beyond securing the pipelines and oilfields, LOCs and governance centers, and finding caches and VBIED factories. We have to ensure that the child walking to her newly refurbished school can do so in the same relative safety that we want a potential police recruit to have when he queues up at the recruiting center. Operationally, we have spent considerable time conducting operations aimed at setting conditions for elections, secure movement along LOCs, and the development of the Iraqi Security Forces. I’ve been part of many such operations, but it was always a balancing act that left little time for the business of securing the population, and thus denying the insurgent his support.

The long-term end state has to be a sustainable form of government for the Iraqi people as a whole. We thrust the National Assembly, Interim and Transitional Governments, and a Constitution on the country, but if it cannot hold for the next 5 or 10 years because the common man would prefer a Federal construct that is actually rooted within the tribe, other alternatives need to be put on the table now and seriously discussed before we commit even one more brigade. An increase that isn’t tied to an estimate of success in halting a creeping civil war will only mean that we are sending more troops into the meat grinder. I will get it out now and say that I feel only a partitioned Iraq can be sustained over the long haul. I throw out the caveat, however, that all parties need to be in on the deal, because if we decide to go the route of supporting a unified Iraq with strong central government, the lid will be blown off anyway within a few months of our departure. Yugoslavia endured a slow path to break-up and we can see the tea leaves from a simple glance at the wikipedia article. I have yet to see any incentive for the Kurdish north to stay the current course after we have left. I don’t want to have to return to Iraq at the behest of a government that is besieged from three sides, each trying to pull away.

At the risk of cutting against the grain and lopping my head off in the process, much has been made of the push-back from senior commanders about increased troop levels, but have the powers-that-be asked what the battalion and regimental commanders think? Can we be a little honest with ourselves, and email out links to an anonymous poll that every ground combat commander can respond to? I think that the gulf between the senior leadership and guys leaving the wire every day would be enormous. If we are staring at metrics and saying that the force levels around Al Qaim are fine, because there have only been one or two attacks in the past three months, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t bad guys there who need to be killed or captured. It may simply mean that they are a latent threat, somewhere at the beginning of their attack cycle, or surreptitiously supporting insurgent efforts in the next couple of towns over. We can worry about over-stretched forces after this in done, or else we’ll worsen the long war we are in by several orders of magnitude. Anyone want two-year deployments down the road? I’m hopeful it doesn’t come to that, but we have to tighten the belt for the here and now, or step back and step out.

With a clearly articulated end state in hand, our force laydown cannot be another round of ¼ boots on the ground and ¾ Fobbits. Better to surge every CAG and SF resource as part of the increase, and flesh out CAP initiatives that may have gathered dust the past three years. I’ve slowly become convinced that we cannot win victory FOR THE IRAQI PEOPLE without living among them. To borrow from slapout9, we need to find out where the insurgents are sleeping, and whom they are sleeping with. We cannot do that unless our Iraqi partners and we are out on the streets everyday and every night, and are tapped into the sheiks, clergy, and the guys who sell cigarettes by the side of the road or gas from the trunk of their Caprices. We are already on this path, and have done it for a while, but every large-scale operation or raid takes troops off the task of engaging the population. Perhaps elements of the increased force structure need to be assigned these “high-intensity COIN” tasks, and moved throughout the AOs as required, with the sole focus of applying offensive power when required. Keep them out of the mission of maintaining eyes on the population, and allow the resident forces (working with CAG and SOF elements) to handle that piece with the ISF. The challenge is ensuring that these types of operations don’t become silly turf wars between the commander who knows the ground, and a direct action-type force that comes and goes as required. Integration is not difficult, it just requires imagination and the appropriate level of unity of command. We either move forward this way, or stop emasculating rotational units by carving out the panoply of training/transition teams from the battalions about to enter the breach. That will return critical combat power and leadership to the tip of the spear.

We also need to square away our reconstruction efforts. Small or big project, well or hydro-electric generator, we have got to get the supporting establishment of development agencies in our backfield. Bring law enforcement as well. I’m not talking about CIVPOL trainers, but detectives put on sabbatical and aligned with every battalion commander as his law enforcement advisor. That American advisor needs to have an Iraqi counterpart bunking next to him. The two of them need to get outside the wire, see the ground, and help the intel guys discern the pattern and linkages between the network of smugglers, hijackers and financiers who have allowed the insurgency to remain at a high simmer for the past two years, as well as the local law enforcement folks who may be contributing to the problem. Since terrorist/insurgent action is fueled by crime, we need to obtain and maintain a grasp of the methods of operation we face and focus our interdiction as is appropriate. Will we ever stop it? Saddam couldn’t, and it’s doubtful that we could do more than disrupt the deeper covert activities, but one less trunk of explosives means one less IED.

Although we are stuck with the thorn that is known as Al-Sadr, seeking to neutralize the Mahdi Army or placing Sadr in custody is a recipe for internecine conflict and backlash that would leave us dazed and confused. The time to deal with him with a hammer slipped past us three years ago, and he has become akin to an old thorn we all know too well, Mohammed Farah Aidid. The entire nature of the collective mission in Somalia changed when we decided to put a bounty on his head, and things came to an ignominious end. It doesn’t matter that Al-Sadr doesn't have the best interests of the Iraqi people at heart. It matters that he has become the Robin Hood for a lot of the Shi’a, and the quasi-protector of Sadr City. For those who have patrolled or driven through that neighborhood, they can understand why he holds so much sway. Applying the military might of any additional troops against him will bring us back to the game of whack-a-mole, except it will be in areas south of Baghdad that have enjoyed relative calm. We need to find bigger and sweeter tasting carrots.

A May 2006 DoD report titled "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq", came out concurrent with an American Forces Press Service article where a senior officer on the Joint staff said Saddam Hussein regime loyalists "are becoming a largely irrelevant entity," and that the biggest threats remaining were terrorists and foreign fighters. I’m curious where the statistics come from and often wonder if we really know what type of bad guy we are fighting. Terrorist? Militia thug? Simple criminals brokering IEDs for fast dinars? The Iraq Study Group report clearly states on pg 6 that the violence is fed by a Sunni Arab insurgency…C’mon gang, which is it? Oh wait a minute, a couple of years ago, there wasn’t an insurgency right? It was just a handful of Al Qaeda elements and foreign fighters…

Whichever model we borrow from, whether it be Rhodesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, or the Indian Wars, we have got to find a way to empower the Iraqi man on the street to be the renewable resource that defeats the forces trying to rip Iraq apart and boot us out in the process. The catch is that we have to do this under the umbrella of dual-tracking discussions with regional powers and the leadership of the insurgent groups, because they also hold some of the keys to long-term stability. Even if we only sit them down to say, “We need you to restrain yourselves or else you’ll get a Tomahawk” we should use the venue to gauge motives and intentions. They’ll be there long after we are gone.

To borrow a phrase I saw elsewhere, we may have all the guns, but they have all the time.

Last edited by jcustis; 01-05-2007 at 01:42 AM.
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Old 01-04-2007   #2
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This is pretty damned good. This is another example of a post that makes me wish I'd seen this Council before I went to Iraq either time....
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Old 01-04-2007   #3
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Amen JC Amen. Especially about starting an I/O campaign yesterday!
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Old 01-04-2007   #4
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Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
Amen JC Amen. Especially about starting an I/O campaign yesterday!
Indeed on the IO campaign. This is exceedingly difficult though. Informing the population while still maintaining enough surprise to successfully operate on the tactical level will be quite difficult. (I'm not even talking about killing insurgents. I'm talking about not getting ambushed by exceedingly large Mahdi Army or [insert militia/terrorist group here].) The only way to ameloriate this is probably more mass in our formations, which is something we don't necessarely have, or something we don't have the political will to muster without a sufficient IO campaign on the home front.

On a related note, Wretchard analyzes Keegan on a 50,000-troop surge, and the lack of a corresponding IO campaign. Here.

At any rate, it was a pleasure to read, jc. Kudos.

Last edited by Smitten Eagle; 01-05-2007 at 12:03 AM.
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Old 01-05-2007   #5
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Originally Posted by Smitten Eagle View Post
On a related note, Wretchard analyzes Keegan on a 50,000-troop surge, and the lack of a corresponding IO campaign. Here.

At any rate, it was a pleasure to read, jc. Kudos.

I guarantee you, as someone who knows many of the authors, the IO and reconstruction campaigns are not being overlooked. They're just not being made public.
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Old 01-05-2007   #6
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That post on the Belmont Club was peculiar. If there policymakers out there think that a temporary surge will have a side effect of more capable ISF and lasting stability, then we need to simply pack up our HMMWVs and head home now.

The forces that seek to pull the country apart (or gain the upper hand - ala Sadr) will simply hand the ISF their lunch, if they stand and fight at all.

Last edited by jcustis; 01-05-2007 at 12:34 AM.
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Old 01-05-2007   #7
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Indeed on the IO campaign. This is exceedingly difficult though. Informing the population while still maintaining enough surprise to successfully operate on the tactical level will be quite difficult.
On the IO campaign, I was thinking more on the side of our non-kinetic operations. Something along the lines of, "The Americans are going to be with us in this for as long as it takes, to make our children safe and our lands more prosperous...Now tell us where your homies went."
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Old 01-05-2007   #8
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Really great post, JC. I definitely agree on the timing of he IO campaign - say starting 4 years ago...

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Old 01-05-2007   #9
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I'm assuming a "bigger, sweeter carrot" for Sadr involves a large piece of the political "pie"?

I'm wondering if there is a solution which involves incorporating the "militias" into the overall polity.

I think we will be forced to either engage Iran and grant them greater power in the region, or to confront them and interdict their efforts.

Last edited by 120mm; 01-05-2007 at 08:09 AM.
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Old 01-05-2007   #10
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Default Counterpoint? Or defining end state?

Edited after the clarity of a cup of coffee.
Re-reading, I am even more impressed with jcustis' 1st post in this thread. But I am still skeptical about our ability to surge on the strategically significant scale needed to impose security (COA 1). I see the Stratfor outline in my post below perhpas as COA 2 -- let there be a brawl, but a steel cage match rather than a free-for-all. Self-determination by "free market" principles. Is that a different end-state, or just a radically different path to achieving the same end-state?
Time for another cup.

-------------------
Excecptionally well articulated, jcustis.

Pardon the label, but I would categorize that as Go Big, Do It Well. Definitely the wise approach to trying to accomplish the original objective. But I ponder whether that objective is now feasible, and if so, what actions are necessary to gain and maintain the large surge needed to establish the presence that enables that security, and whether the resultant risks elsewhere in the GWOT and global environment are worth taking. Can we / should we go big enough, long enough?

Still getting my head around the Stratfor Special Report, U.S. Options in Iraq, I recently read. I read a hard copy via a subscribed compadre, I don't know if it is available on the web via their free trial, it was one of their premuim reports.

If I can do their analysis justice in this short summary, their assessment -- which is about the only one that has rocked me off my "we must win" position -- is as follows:
  • We don't have the forces to sustain a significant surge.
  • We can't just leave and let the place implode (as Iran wins too much)
  • We can't just stay the course (not winning, slippery slope to losing).
  • We don't have any real allies left on the ground. (that make a difference)
  • Iran, not just Iraq and not really anyone else, is the key. And their influence (but not control) over Iraqi Shia.
  • Iraqi forces do not need training, they need loyalty and alignment of interests. We can't provide that.
The fallback objective becomes CONTAIN Iranian power and PREVENT their regional hegemony, with the caveat that since we've screwed up as much as we have so far, they're going to gain a little status/power. Just stop them from gaining too much. If we shoot the moon in Iraq, we might lose and let Iran win big in the region.

The tactics they propose:
  • Withdraw U.S. forces to containment positions:
  • Bulk in southern Iraq, in Shiite territory (watching them, esp for Iran influence) and buffering Shiite / Iran influence from Saudi Arabia.
  • Smaller force w/ Kurds (they have more organic capability, and aren't main effort)
  • Let the Sunnis have Al Anbar. Influence through diplomacy and local partners, esp. Saudia Arabia. Dicey, but less so than some of the other diplomatic miracles we're counting on.
  • Let the Iraqis solve their own problems, in a contained, mitigated environment. Maybe still ugly, but lightest shade of gray feasible.
They suggest we should not maintain our myriad strongpoints anywhere but in the relative safety of our buffer zones, but note there will be political pressure to do so far more than makes sense. Compromise suggested is BIAP only.

So...at first it pissed me off as defeatist. But the more I mull it over, the more I like it. What do you think?

Last edited by Ironhorse; 01-05-2007 at 01:57 PM.
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Old 01-05-2007   #11
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Thumbs up Great Post

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Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
We need to develop and articulate the end state at the same time that the deploy orders are drafted. The IO campaign on this needed to start yesterday, and it needs to be the Iraqi government’s message as much as it may be ours...

To borrow a phrase I saw elsewhere, we may have all the guns, but they have all the time.

JC,

Sierra Hotel, mate! I wish I could force feed some of this to decision makers...

Tom

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Keep Thinking and Keep Writing!
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Old 01-05-2007   #12
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Default All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

Reading through here I am reminded of why I think the “surge option” is a failure. I have no reason to think that we will do anything different than we have been doing for the past three years, just with more people. Having been unable to solve Iraq by throwing money at it we will now try to through soldiers at it, while more effective then money more troops are a poor substitute for a well thought out strategy.

For three years I have said that we were to short handed in Iraq but I no longer think that more troops could turn this around. We stumbled into this war without fully considering all of the forces at work, consequently we destroyed the Iraqi state and are left without any way to put it back together. The time to try and save Iraq has passed, now we need to figure out how we are going to deal with what takes its place.
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Old 01-05-2007   #13
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Stu,

I'm 50% with you, and 50% "Go big and go long". I'm with you a bit because I believe that if we don't put all of our energy and best and brightest on this issue, we may as well just pack it up and call it a day...then we can go back into the smoke jumper reactive mode. The challenges we face in Iraq are staggering, and perhaps insurmountable. That's why I wanted to make the point about looking pretty far down the road to 10 years ahead. Are there indications in the here and now that tell us our efforts may result in a collapsed and fractured government anyway?

If we cannot break out of the paradigm of business as usual from the past three years, you are absolutely right that we will get worse at half-stepping through this, just with more people on the ground.

On a rant note...I'm all for the historic symoblism of there being the first woman Speaker of the House, but the gavel hoisting, roaring applause, and pomp and circumstance around the Capitol yesterday proved that in certain realms, we are totally clueless. Yesterday should have been a somber one, because there is heap of doodoo that needs to be dealt with.

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Old 01-05-2007   #14
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JC,
What effect will tapping LTG Patreaus as Iraq Chief have on a possible "surge"? I see him putting more boots on the ground in Baghdad; similiar to tactics used in Mosul post-invasion. I don't believe he's a fan of OPS from FOBs (my God who would be). I don't know if we've tried establishing Company and Platoon CPs in the city yet...which maybe a recipe for increased casualties right off the bat, but I am a believer. I've seen it work, but as we discussed, Baghdad is not Mosul.
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Old 01-05-2007   #15
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What effect will tapping LTG Patreaus as Iraq Chief have on a possible "surge"?
I have no idea what his operational inclinations are, so I can't really comment there. I do think if we are going to take on all comers in Baghdad, we need to smother that city, probably with a troop and police density of at least a company-sized element of grunts/CAG/MPs/SOF/ISF forces for every 4 sq. kms. VCPs at every other intersection, and a heavy investment in physical security devices (not for us, but for police stations, mosques, schools, etc.).

That's just in the city proper itself. On top of that probably a division (or two?) to smother the surrounding suburbs and outlying towns. Work the people (back to the cigarette and gas peddlers), and ferret these knuckleheads out of their warrens in what are probably the most innocent-looking places.

All this means we would need to penetrate, seize, and hold Sadr City. Cordon it, and get on line and walk from north to south, turning over every rock in the process. If we do it, we have to expect fighting on the scale of Ramadi or Najaf in 2004, so we probably would have a spike of casualties. It all goes back to figuring out what we (read: the Iraqi govt. with us by their side) are going to do with Al-Sadr. The government needs to win the IO fight and convince the people that the Mahdi Army is a threat to long-term instability in and of itself. If it doesn't have the will or skill to do that, then we are back to my point of packing up and going home.

I simply don't know what type of carrot will work on this guy and his acolytes. I also highly doubt that the government has the political capital to unleash a hellstorm within the city limits. Baghdad probably has the potential, but will never be allowed to become, another Operation Al Fajr. The nest of vipers will continue to linger, and linger. I have greater doubts that we can counter the Shi'a militias through non-kinetic means. Mama is simply not going to turn in her son, who spends his free time toting an RPG in a Sadr City alleyway. I believe that those bonds, developed under the tyranny of Saddam, will be impossible to break. If we go kinetic, we had better get on the 1MC and prepare everyone for heavy swells.

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Old 01-05-2007   #16
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I have increasingly less faith that the U.S. will take some sort of stance on Al-Sadr. I have even less faith that Maliki will. I don't know the political/strategic implications of "taking him on", so-to-speak or even establishing a stance against him or his army. I've seen the Mahdis in action and how quickly they can devastate an area and put fear into the people. Recently, I believe CF (mainly US) recently took out one of his top LTs, which of course caused a stir in the Shia community. We can never forget the "martyr factor"; knowing that anything offensive toward Sadr will just result in more support for him from the Shia followers. I don't think Iraq's government is willing or even capable of convincing many Shia that Sadr's actions are actually counterproductive to their daily existence. A Najaf-style fight in Sadr City I think is going to happen regardless. We just have to do it right and we HAVE to get the ISF involved, if not take the lead.
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Old 01-05-2007   #17
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A Najaf-style fight in Sadr City I think is going to happen regardless. We just have to do it right and we HAVE to get the ISF involved, if not take the lead.
I think that will be a watershed moment, when we take an Iraqi brigade (with aperhaps 50% Shi'a manning level), stand them up nice and neatly in formation, and tell them they are the main effort in an attack to seize mission in Sadr City. I'd like to see the look on their faces.
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Old 01-05-2007   #18
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I think that will be a watershed moment, when we take an Iraqi brigade (with aperhaps 50% Shi'a manning level), stand them up nice and neatly in formation, and tell them they are the main effort in an attack to seize mission in Sadr City. I'd like to see the look on their faces.
Especially as the family of the shia jundi would probably be taken hostage by some Sadrist militia.

You'd have better luck with the PeshMerga doing that kind of dirty work.
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Old 01-06-2007   #19
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Default Well I'll be a monkey's uncle!

http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/...ain/index.html

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Saturday that Iraq's armed forces are set for an assault on Baghdad to take out militias and rogue security forces.

Aided by multinational troops, the Iraqi forces "will hunt down all outlaws regardless of their sectarian and political affiliations," al-Maliki said at an Iraqi Army Day parade.

"We will also severely punish those [security forces] who do not carry out orders or operate in a partisan or sectarian way," he said.

Forces will search out insurgents neighborhood-by-neighborhood, The Associated Press reported, and will start the assault this weekend.
----

Looks like the first tier of the IO campaign started. Too bad it's another telegraphed right hook.

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Old 01-06-2007   #20
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JC, there is a post on the daily news links page about the 82nd Airborne doing the same thing. Question is it telegraphing or is something else up? What say ye?
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