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Old 01-25-2008   #1
SWJED
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Default Our Troops Did Not Fail in 2006

Our Troops Did Not Fail in 2006 - LTC Gian Gentile, International Herald Tribune.

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During the year I commanded a combat battalion in West Baghdad in 2006, some of the soldiers in our outfit were wounded and some were killed, but we did not fail. In my opinion we succeeded.

We cleaned up garbage, started to establish neighborhood security forces, rebuilt schools and killed or captured hostile insurgents, both Shiite and Sunni. Our fundamental mission was to protect the people. Other combat outfits we served alongside did the same.

In this sense there is little difference between what American combat soldiers did in 2006 and what they are now doing as part of the "surge." The only significant change is that, as part of the surge strategy, nearly 100,000 Sunnis, many of them former insurgents, were induced to stop attacking Americans and were put on the U.S. government payroll as allies against Al Qaeda...
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Old 01-25-2008   #2
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Our Troops Did Not Fail in 2006 - LTC Gian Gentile, International Herald Tribune.
My sense is that the position that U.S. troops are now doing something different than before is a minority one. What I hear is that most people who know anything about Iraq recognize that by 2005 at the latest, our units were doing the right things. There just wasn't enough of them.
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Old 01-25-2008   #3
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I think that like anything, the realationship of causes and effects in Iraq will be debated for a long time. I agree that there was no wholescale change in tactics, except possibly in certain local areas. The "surge" enabled us to more effectively execute those tactics in critical areas. Also, I think that beyond the simple increase of troop numbers, the surge represented a political statement of will to continue the fight in Iraq at a time when we were signalling transition and withdrawal.
Contrary to many accounts, the Sunni awakening and the emergence of CLCs ("concerned Local Citizens") was not merely a case of us buying off Iraqi tribes. If it were just a matter of money, we could simply keep paying for a long time. The cost-benefit case could be easily made between paying them and maintaining troops here. There were multiple reasons for this phenomenon, among them: extremists overplaying their hands, the relentless pressure of Coalition and Iraqi military operations (current efforts build off of previous efforts), and the signal from the surge that we were not leaving anytime soon (commitment to stay in Iraq).
Obviously, the history of the war is yet to be written. While we see the obvious temporal relationship between the surge and the improved security and can draw some initial conclusions, it will be awhile before we can have a deeper understanding of the cause and effect relationships at play over the course of this war. In the meantime, I agree with LtCol Gentile that any disparagement of previous efforts (as opposed to serious lessons learned efforts--which become progressively more difficult when you move from tactical to operational to strategic levels) does nothing to advance our effectiveness or capabilities.
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Old 01-26-2008   #4
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The author wrote:

“Senator John McCain, now running for president, wrote in a recent opinion article that, prior to the surge, American strategy at the highest levels in Iraq was ‘mismanaged.’”

That quote is absolutely correct. LTC Gentile’s battalion command position did not represent “the highest levels in Iraq” and this should be fairly obvious. At the highest levels in Iraq, the trend was FOB consolidation. He also quoted a “neoconservative” writer who criticized this FOB consolidation. He makes a legitimate critique of that comment by pointing out that his battalion was not in FOB consolidation mode. But what the dastardly neo-con wrote was largely true for the country as a whole. That changed in 2007.

The author goes on to write:

“The main difference was a decision by senior American leaders in 2007 to pay large amounts of money to Sunni insurgents to stop attacking Americans and join the fight against Al Qaeda. Coupled with this was the decision by the Shiite militia leader, Moktada al-Sadr, to refrain from attacking coalition forces.

The dramatic drop in violence, especially toward Americans, that occurred in Baghdad from June to July 2007 can mainly be explained by these new conditions.”


That is an oversimplification that ignores the conditions that brought about the change in behavior by Sadr. It is one thing to omit mention of those conditions for the sake of OPSEC, but quite another to assume that they never happened and then draw an incorrect conclusion. Sadr did not decide, in a vacuum, to play nice with America. There was also a basic psychological appeal of increasing troop strength and renewing our commitment to remaining in Iraq that helped to sway some Sunni tribal Sheiks to play ball. They needed reassurance that we were going to stay there if they were to side with us against al-Qaeda. It was not as simple as throwing cash around.

I agree with the following point and I cannot figure out why he downplayed it:

“Granted, before the surge there were about 30,000 fewer U.S. troops and fewer American combat outposts in Iraqi neighborhoods. But the overall methods that the U.S. Army employed at the small-unit level where I operated were no different from the so-called new counterinsurgency methods used today.”

Absolutely correct. The key phrase is “at the small-unit level”. Many, if not most, units in Iraq had figured things out for the most part by 2006 and were doing the right things, but at the small unit level. I see no evidence that this was often occurring at, say, Brigade or above. Most certainly, it was not sufficiently understood at the MNC-I level. The trend was FOB consolidation. That was exactly counter to the efforts being made by those at the small unit level who had figured it out.

I agree with the general theme that Iraq has not been turned around by some enlightened Soldier-scholar with a PhD rolling in to town and using intellect instead of firepower. That was an image that appealed to the media and academia and was politically expedient. However, Gen Petraeus made a big difference by simply reversing the FOB consolidation trend. Units pushed deeper into the population in order to secure the population, rather than withdrawing to FOBs and securing their own perimeters (and I understand that LTC Gentile's battalion was not part of this withdrawal). This was made possible partly by the addition of troops, as the author points out, but there was also a fundamental shift in guidance to stop consolidating and get out into the population.

LTC Gentile may not have felt the frustration of FOB consolidation in 2006 - perhaps his AOR was not near the front of the queue for consolidation. My unit was. Even in 2005, there was a push for us to be withdrawn into a FOB, despite our protests that our AOR would go into the crapper overnight. We were able to delay this movement for the duration of our deployment, but we had to constantly be ready to move on a moment's notice, in the event that the powers that be made the subjective decision that it was time to go. The compromise struck between those who were implementing the nonsensical plan and those of us in the city who said that the plan was stupid was that, in 2006, we were not replaced by US forces. From our standpoint, this was a crappy compromise, but not one that we had much say in. We were replaced by an Iraqi force that we had only been training for a few months. It was a plan destined to fail, but that was the theme back then. Even if the plan was doomed to fail, it did not matter, because it was the plan and the plan had to be executed.

Thankfully, in spite of a lot of bad decisions at very high levels that set the conditions for failure, the author is correct when writes that our troops did not fail in 2006.
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Old 01-26-2008   #5
Peter Mansoor
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Post Our troops did not fail; our strategy did

The troops did not fail in 2006, but the strategy did. Gian Gentile is wrong when he writes about 2006, "Our fundamental mission was to protect the people." In fact, the fundamental mission in 2006 was to transition the mission to Iraqi forces. And there were not just "fewer Combat Outposts" in Iraqi neighborhoods in 2006; in fact, there were almost none.

Gentile's troops were forced to try to protect the Iraqi people by commuting from Camp Victory and other large bases on the periphery of the city. I contend that this is the reason why the local Iraqis did not side with his battalion, or others in the city, and why were willing to side with U.S. forces in the same neighborhoods a year later. The fact is that a year after his battalion left, our troops were living among the local inhabitants, not driving by on periodic patrols. Gian Gentile and his troops may have tried to do the right things, but they could not replicate the successes of 2007 because they did not live in the neighborhoods they professed to protect. Those successes required more than a surge in forces; they required a change in our doctrine and strategy.
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Old 01-27-2008   #6
Gian P Gentile
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Originally Posted by Peter Mansoor View Post
The troops did not fail in 2006, but the strategy did. Gian Gentile is wrong when he writes about 2006, "Our fundamental mission was to protect the people." In fact, the fundamental mission in 2006 was to transition the mission to Iraqi forces. And there were not just "fewer Combat Outposts" in Iraqi neighborhoods in 2006; in fact, there were almost none.

Gentile's troops were forced to try to protect the Iraqi people by commuting from Camp Victory and other large bases on the periphery of the city. I contend that this is the reason why the local Iraqis did not side with his battalion, or others in the city, and why were willing to side with U.S. forces in the same neighborhoods a year later. The fact is that a year after his battalion left, our troops were living among the local inhabitants, not driving by on periodic patrols. Gian Gentile and his troops may have tried to do the right things, but they could not replicate the successes of 2007 because they did not live in the neighborhoods they professed to protect. Those successes required more than a surge in forces; they required a change in our doctrine and strategy.
My mission was to protect the people; period!! General Casey told my Brigade commander Colonel Mike Beech shortly after the Samara shrine bombng when he gave him a combat battalion coming up from Kuwait to use it to stop the violence and protect the people. If i was not committed to protecting the people then why did my stomach get tied up in knots when dead bodies showed up on the streets?

You overstate the idea of a new doctrine being applied during the Surge. The American Army by and large has largely in Iraq been conducting correct counterinsurgency doctrine and practice since the middle of 2004. Are you to say that your Brigade that was in Sadr City in 2004 was all goofed up? General Chiarelli certainly didnt think so in the essay that he wrote in Mil Review in 2005 upon returning from Iraq.

You also overstate by using hyperbolic words like "commuting" and conducting "periodic patrols." What are you implying with those terms, especially the latter? My squadron conducted over 3000 combat patrols and operations during 2006 and contrary to the myth created by the neo con spin machine we didnt just drive by and look; we got out, walked, talked, fought, worked hard to protect the people. So too did the other outfits that i served along side.

You also overstate the notion of "living in the neighborhoods." The narrative that has emerged from Iraq is that American soldiers are living Galula-like in almost EVERY Iraqi neighborhood and there presence has been decisive in separating the enemy from the people. Briefs really well and Galula smiles in his grave but i have looked at briefing maps and the number of cops emplaced betray the ideal of "living with the people." Not to get into specifics but I saw the number of cops in my old ao and i know the terrain the size of the population, they were not the primary mechanism as you suggest that lowered the violence. Have they really "sided" with us? Or, are they siding with their own side and using us and our money to prepare for a bigger fight down the road that they know is coming?

So consider this counterfactual, if we had not bought off our former enemies to stop attacking us and become our allies against alqueda and if Sadr had not made his related decision to stand down attacks, would your Surge and your purported new doctrine and tactics produced the dramatic downturn in violence that occurred in the Summer of 2007 by itself?

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Old 01-27-2008   #7
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Gian,

This war is a bitch, and we will not be able MCO our way to victory, it requires much, much more of us than that.

In my opinion COIN, which is a tactic, requires total commitment to the populace. Tribal forces are very strong in Iraq, I have encountered nothing like them in the west. Iraqi’s, just like people the world over, are very astute and can easily determine if the level of commitment, security, and strength of the associated institutions which provide this security are sufficient for them to fully commit themselves and the fate of their families to. For Iraqi’s this math has not added up in the United States favor as opposed to the Tribes favor until very recently. Cause and effect points towards MNF’s change in leadership and tactics for this shift, however the Iraqi populace’s perceptions about America’s level of strength and commitment to the project will drive whether or not they continue with the current status quo or move back to Tribal strength and security. Simply put, Today is what is taken measure of by Iraqi’s and we have to be strong and committed to them each and every ‘Today’ in order to win their trust and loyalty.

Our tours are 12 or 15 months and we get to go home if we live. We get to rest at night because our fellow soldiers watch over us. When we go outside the wire every day to work our fellow soldiers watch over us. There are only ~150,000 troops in Iraq according to the press, and because of this and many other reasons we are very loyal to our own and all of us hurt when one of us falls.

Iraqi ‘tours’ are not 12 or 15 months. Who watches over Iraqi families at night? Who looks out for Iraqis when the venture out everyday? Who gives food, water, and money to families whose members do not or cannot work? I would suggest that it is the Tribe (and ~26 million Iraqi's belong to Tribes), and because of this simple fact it is apparent where Iraqi loyalties lie.

Does this state of affairs negate the sacrifices and successes those of us who have served America? No of course not, but we serve in Iraq, not America, and it is the Iraqi’s who judge, and act upon the judgment of what we do or leave undone that will determine our success or failure in that country. Nor can we freeze just one, or more, individual combat tour(s) and declare the campaign a success. We have to nug all of this campaign out.

There are no easy answers that I can see.

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Old 01-27-2008   #8
Peter Mansoor
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Post Different Visions of Counterinsurgency in Iraq

Our strategy failed in 2006, just as it failed in 2003-2004 when my brigade was stationed in Rusafa and Adhamiya (not Sadr City). I have admitted as much in a book I have written on that experience, "Baghdad at Sunrise," which will be published this fall. This statement has nothing to do with units being "goofed up." Rather, it has everything to do with strategy and doctrine. In the spring of 2004, we withdrew from our forward operating bases inside Baghdad to the super-bases on the city's periphery. The fear was that our continued presence inside Iraq's cities would cause the Iraqi people to view us as occupiers. News Flash - they already did. But by withdrawing to the large bases on the outskirts, we ceded the streets to the insurgents and militias. And I disagree with you that patrols conducted from Camp Victory are as effective as combat outposts positioned 24/7 amidst the neighborhoods of Baghdad.

The 2006 Campaign Plan stated, "Our actions during liberation, occupation and partnership have enabled the Coalition and successive Iraqi governments to set the conditions for the stabilization of Iraq and for the transition to Iraqi self-reliance. Completing this transition during the tenure of this Consitutionally-elected government is the focus of the Campaign Plan."

Not "a focus," Gian, but "the focus." This statement is the reason why the commander of Multi-National Force-West in Al Anbar could state publicly that he did not have enough troops to protect the people of the province, but he did have enough to accomplish his mission.

Compare the above with what is written in the 2007 version of the same plan, "In the near term, the downward spiral of sectarian violence will be halted by further developing existing security lines of operation to protect the population and render irreconcilable groups less effective, while concurrently developing and employing political, economic and diplomatic policies and initiatives that will move reconciliable groups and the political establishment of Iraq towards political accommodation."

Perhaps the difference in these two vastly different visions of the campaign plan for Iraq is not apparent to you, but the maturation of our thinking on Counterinsurgency is evident to me.

By the way, none of what is written above came from the so-called "neo con spin machine." And "my surge" and "my purported new doctrine" actually belong to the nation and the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, respectively. We are all in this together.

We are going to have to agree to disagree on this issue, Gian.

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Old 01-27-2008   #9
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I'm going to be a little direct in this one, understand that I respect you, and your men's accomplishments. I know firsthand about losing soldiers, and have spent 29 months of my life in Iraq. So take these as candor from another point of view.

============================


Few points of fact. First, your timeline is off.

1) 1/1 AD (COL Mansoor's BDE), was in Baghdad May 2003 (July 03 with him in command) - April 2004 based out of the Martyr's monument. It had everything from the amusement park in the north to the Martyr's monument. 2ACR was responsible for east baghdad from Sadr City to Rustimayah. 1/1 AD, 2ACR, and the rest of 1AD was extended in April 2004 to fight the Sadr Rebellion. 1/1 subsequently re-took the city of Kerbala from the Mehidi army and 2ACR re-took Diawanyah and Najaf to the south. (although Najaf would be re-cleared in Aug 2004 by the Marines and 1st Cav in the 2d Sadr rebellion).

2) My BN, 2-37 AR, was cross attached from 1/1 to 2ACR under COL (now BG) Brad May. We were the ones that helped COL (P) Abrams' 1st Cav out of the fire in Sadr City on April 4, 2004. See the book "The Long Road Home" by Martha Radditz for details. Also a great ARMOR article about it here. There was a huge mistake in March 2004 of letting 2/2 ACR (which had Sadr City) depart for home without a replacement for a month and other units covered down until the arrival of 1st Cav. During the March-April 2004 period, almost all the company and battalion bases which were distributed throughout Baghdad in OIF 1 were shut down, including the base on the edge of Sadr city as part of the decision to move into the newly constructed uber-FOB's such as victory, Taji, Rustaymah, Falcon, and WarEagle. We ceded both territory and presence to a security vacuum as there was no ISF to replace our forces. Within a month, the Sadr rebellion started, and Baghdad began its descent into serious chaos.

Now into the meat ....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post

You overstate the idea of a new doctrine being applied during the Surge. The American Army by and large has largely in Iraq been conducting correct counterinsurgency doctrine and practice since the middle of 2004. Are you to say that your Brigade that was in Sadr City in 2004 was all goofed up? General Chiarelli certainly didnt think so in the essay that he wrote in Mil Review in 2005 upon returning from Iraq.
I think you're letting your emotion get out of control. You're not the only one that has buried soldiers over there doing the best they know how. I know COL Mansoor has, I have, and several others you have passively dismissed and taken barbs at in this forum and in print. Your vitrol filled posts against those who have sought smarter ways to do this, and a doctrine more in tune with successful COIN in the past, don't do credit to yourself, your argument, or your soldiers. It really is coming across as sour grapes rather than substantive argument for the forums it’s in. We’re all fiercely proud of our units and the Soldiers who we fought, suffered, and worked beside. Mixing your policy critique with emotional bromide isn’t helping.
One can be proud of his unit's performance and sacrifice and still be able to recognize one's shortcomings, that's why it was a learning army. 1/1 (and many others) didn't do everything perfect in OIF1, especially in the early months. I'm sure COL Mansoor would tell you the same. But they did learn, and get better, which culminated in its ability to re-take Kerbala and design a peace that has held to this day using the principles that later went into FM 3-24. Like your unit, every man of that BDE tried hard, the best they can, but sometimes it just wasn't enough. (Adamyiah and Sadr City a case in point) That isn't an insult to the men who struggled there, just how it came out. One can argue the whys, but in the end, it just didn't meet the bill. Did those commanders try? Certainly! Did they reach out to the population as best they could? Of course! Did they do it smartly - sometimes so, sometimes not. If trying hard was the only metric required for success we would be out of there a long time ago.

Lots of units try hard. Not all succeed, for a variety of reasons, some they can control and some that can't.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
You also overstate by using hyperbolic words like "commuting" and conducting "periodic patrols." What are you implying with those terms, especially the latter? My squadron conducted over 3000 combat patrols and operations during 2006 and contrary to the myth created by the neo con spin machine we didnt just drive by and look; we got out, walked, talked, fought, worked hard to protect the people. So too did the other outfits that i served along side.

No one doubts your men dismounted and worked with the people, and did a lot of patrols. But the moment they left the sector the insurgents owned it. Simple fact. Building bases enables better population control, providing 24/7 security, quick response to the populace, and encouraging those who were passive before to stand up for security. "Commuter COIN", as I call it, doesn't mean you never dismount, it simply means you aren't living in your sector 24/7, and therefore can't influence it for periods of time. The enemy can observe and predict your movements easier, and has a longer lead time. Taking down our company and BN bases in Baghdad early 2004 directly contributed to its instability and downfall, ceding many areas to the gangs, insurgents, and criminals.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
You also overstate the notion of "living in the neighborhoods." The narrative that has emerged from Iraq is that American soldiers are living Galula-like in almost EVERY Iraqi neighborhood and there presence has been decisive in separating the enemy from the people. Briefs really well and Galula smiles in his grave but i have looked at briefing maps and the number of cops emplaced betray the ideal of "living with the people." Not to get into specifics but I saw the number of cops in my old ao and i know the terrain the size of the population, they were not the primary mechanism as you suggest that lowered the violence. "
Can't speak to your AO. However, the COP's also send a significant IO and mindset message - "we're here to protect you, and are closer than ever. We've left our big bases and nice life to make a real effort at securing you."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
Have they really "sided" with us? Or, are they siding with their own side and using us and our money to prepare for a bigger fight down the road that they know is coming?

Can you honestly state that we are worse off with Anbar and Baghdad stable due to alliances made with local tribes? Gosh, I can't help but to think how many more options we would have with Baghdad, Anbar, and West Ninewah in continued chaos. Are the local alliances a long term solution? Absolutely not, in and of themselves. Do they open a door to a long term solution by providing the stability necessary to de-flame the passions in Iraq? Certainly.

.... continued next post
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Old 01-27-2008   #10
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Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
So consider this counterfactual, if we had not bought off our former enemies to stop attacking us and become our allies against alqueda and if Sadr had not made his related decision to stand down attacks, would your Surge and your purported new doctrine and tactics produced the dramatic downturn in violence that occurred in the Summer of 2007 by itself?
I wish you would stop with the downright, untrue lie that we simply "bought off" the Sunni tribes. We didn't. Yes, money was used as an incentive in several ways. But the Sunnis wanted to get rid of Al Qaeda on their own. We simply had the fortitude to help them. It's as much as an demeaning insult to those who worked that hugely significant turnaround as you feel it is an insult to your soldiers that some perceive they weren't doing things right, or trying hard.

Using money as a weapon is critical, as you know. What’s cheaper – gassing up your M1 at $13/gal (KBR delivered cost) , 504 gals, and probably twice a day = $13,104. Using that money to support actions that prevent having to use the tanks = much better deal. I know how much CL I/III/V my guys used during the Sadr rebellion,. The extension for 1AD cost $1bil for three months. We probably could have prevented it if we had spent $250mil in Sadr City to create jobs in late 2003. (Impossible for policy reasons). And with a payout of $500k + death funds for each soldier killed, I think using money to create stability sounds like a damn good deal.
And again, was Iraq truly better off in 2006 than today in 2007? Are we in a worse strategic position? Operational? Tactical? Does the US have less options today than in late 2006? Are the people less secure? Are more US soldiers dying? Are more Iraqis dying?

The answer to all of those is no. The change of tactics and mindset in the force weren't exclusive to GEN P, 1/1 AD, or 3ACR. Lots of units were moving that way before the doctrine hit. What Gen P did was impart that across the force, and temporarily shift the strategic goal from building and empowering ISF to population security. Once everyone focused on that through varying ways, including COP's, councils, and other tools, we saw a direct decrease in violence. I keep seeing you cast stones at lots of other’s actions, personal attacks at some FM 3-24 authors, and COIN doctrine, but still fail to hear what your productive alternative is.

LTC Gentile, you make some very good arguments in your writings regarding the pendulum shift to COIN in the force. However, your contempt those with differing opinions and who have pushed for some measure of change don't reflect well on you or your argument.

I understand this is personal for you, it is for me too. No one here is minimizing your hard work or sacrifice. Don't minimize ours. There is something to be learned from all of our diverse experiences. I’ll agree that we weren’t as screwed up in 2004-2006 as Tom Ricks would have us believe, but we were much better as a whole force in 2007 with new leadership, mindset, and doctrine. I think you can concede that some of those same factors might have had some effect in the transformation that took place in Iraq.
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Old 01-27-2008   #11
Mark O'Neill
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Default Well said Cavguy

The objective balance of facts regarding what we are doing now (including CLC), why we are doing it, and the role of the 'new' COIN doctine favours the narratives offerred by Mansoor and CavGuy.

The people I have spoken to on CLC are clearly enamoured with being paid. Can't say I blame them. Last time I looked, we were being paid for providing security in Iraq, why not pay Iraqis for participating in the same task? As Cavguy pouints out, the business case is sound. You only have to have them 'save' one Hummer a month, without even considering the value of our soldiers lives, and you are already streets ahead.

The assertion that we have 'bought' off the Sunni through the CLC program fails examination against the facts. It does not adequately explain why 'CLC' type entities, acting in accordance with the rule of law and ISF / CF / GOI wishes, have arisen in many places....where we are not paying them at all. There appear to be many of these 'self help' CLC being formed - in Sunni and Shia communities.

One thing that this thread highlights is that there are many competing narratives about what is happening in Iraq. Some of them are probably even quiet close to the reality of what is occurring. However, the situation is constantly evolving and each narrative can really only as 'good' as the accuracy of the facts that inform it.

What was a fact about certain things in '03 , '04, '05, '06 and '07 may not be applicable now. How things seem from CONUS through the distortion of either the media or friend's reports, and tempered with the gift of hindsight may not accord with the reality been percieved by the people up to their necks in it at the time in theatre. That is perhaps why one of the strongest takeaway points to emerge from the 'new' doctrine is the constant emphasis on learning and adaptation.

And Gian - the good news is that 'Learning and adpatation' has universally utility across all war fighting endeavours.

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Old 01-27-2008   #12
Gian P Gentile
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Lots of comments on my posting and since I can get lost in long-running, detailed threads let me just say a few things in response.

First of all I apologize to Colonel Mansoor for not having my facts straight by stating incorrectly his former area of operations in Iraq when he was a Brigade commander.

I do accept what Colonel Mansoor's concludes his posting with that perhaps we will just have to agree to disagree.

I also appreciate Mark Oneil's statement that:

Quote:
One thing that this thread highlights is that there are many competing narratives about what is happening in Iraq. Some of them are probably even quiet close to the reality of what is occurring. However, the situation is constantly evolving and each narrative can really only as 'good' as the accuracy of the facts that informs it.
I actually think that there are essentially two; the one i hold and admittedly very few others do and the consensus view as described in detail by the responses to my postings. This is almost certainly why my responses and the words i use to describe how i see things draws such strident remarks from the other side. In order to probe at the truth with power sometimes the matrix responds with equal and even greater force. Cavguy asks why i keep using terms like "buying off our former enemies," well it is an essential truth to the matter that at least a few reporters from Iraq have highlighted and it does set off sparks within the matrix which needs to be done which causes at least some to consider things otherwise.

The narrative, or truth, is important much beyond my personal views and feelings toward Iraq and my experience there. As General Casey has stated our army is out of balance. If we dont see the war as it actually is and understand causal factors as they actually are we may be learning the wrong things that will take us down wrong paths in the future. This may not be the detail that Cavguy is looking for from me but it is the best that i can do in this forum as a serving officer.

It is curious that i am the one being most often accused as being "emotional." Yet i have to tell you that when an officer like Colonel Mansoor uses terms like "periodic patrolling" to characterize my operations in 2006 how am i supposed to take that? The implication of it is hurtful and is factually incorrect. Why are not others questioning his use of strident language?

I push the button by using terms like "buying off our enemies" because so many have convinced themselves that American military power has been the primary agent for the lowering of violence in Iraq in Summer 2007. I am sorry but i just dont view it that way; and a cold hard look at the evidence should cause others to question the narrative too. In the same way that many of you have responded to me this is not an indictment against those brave soldiers who have served as part of our (I accept Colonel Mansoor's critique of my use of a personal pronoun that assigned the Surge to him) Surge but an attempt to get at the truth so that we can devise paths for the future.

Getting at the primary mechansim for the lowering of violence in Summer 2007 is absolutely critical here. Most assume that it was American military power using new doctrine and more troops that did it. From that point to the past the narrative is built that prior to that point we just didnt get things right because we did not have the right doctrine and were not practicing the right methods. Too from that causal point into the future we say that since success in Iraq is primarily because of us we build future plans of action from tactics all the way up to national policy based on this incorrect assessment of causation. Looking at this from the opposite angle, if American military power in its form in Summer 2007 was not at all the primary mechanism for lowering of violence then the way one views the past as essentially a continuation of the same method and tactics since 2004 makes sense. And the future course certainly looks different from the path we are on now. Hence the importance i place on getting at the truth.

This has been an admittedly generalized response lacking in detail but alas like most of you i have lots of things to do on this sunday.

More to follow in other mediums. As the great American historian Carl Becker once said: "it is the duty of the intellectual to think otherwise" in order to get at the truth.

gg
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Old 01-27-2008   #13
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Default Presence, Patience, Persistence

I think that some people fail to realize that there is no quick win in a COIN environment and the perceived success of the surge is also a result in part of seeds planted and actions taken long before the surge was devised or implemented. Although this article is defensive in nature I think it also illustrates a potential problem that could arise within the ranks – a “we-they” among those whose units served at different times. But in the end, as we all know, the only ones who can achieve success are the Iraqis themselves. The real success of the surge is not due just to the increased presence of US forces, but because of actions of Iraqi security forces, actions of the (though still troubled) Iraqi government, and most importantly actions of the Iraqi people and the choices they are making (and the choice is not to side with terrorists/insurgents or Americans; the real choices are side with terrorists/insurgents, be indifferent or apathetic, or side with the Iraqi government – in the end it is always a fight for legitimacy – the insurgents or the indigenous government – and we can only be the external support to that indigenous government – we cannot win the COIN fight for it)

And of course COIN takes presence, patience, and persistence. You have to have security forces present in sufficient forces engaged with the population and providing the necessary secure environment. You must have patience because change does not happen over night, the enemy has a vote and most importantly the essence of COIN (as in all warfare) is about dealing with human behavior. And finally you must be persistent because not all strategies and tactics work in every situation. You must adapt strategies and tactics to suit the specific conditions and most importantly the changing conditions.
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Old 01-27-2008   #14
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Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
I push the button by using terms like "buying off our enemies" because so many have convinced themselves that American military power has been the primary agent for the lowering of violence in Iraq in Summer 2007. I am sorry but i just dont view it that way; and a cold hard look at the evidence should cause others to question the narrative too.

***

Getting at the primary mechansim for the lowering of violence in Summer 2007 is absolutely critical here. Most assume that it was American military power using new doctrine and more troops that did it. From that point to the past the narrative is built that prior to that point we just didnt get things right because we did not have the right doctrine and were not practicing the right methods. Too from that causal point into the future we say that since success in Iraq is primarily because of us we build future plans of action from tactics all the way up to national policy based on this incorrect assessment of causation. Looking at this from the opposite angle, if American military power in its form in Summer 2007 was not at all the primary mechanism for lowering of violence then the way one views the past as essentially a continuation of the same method and tactics since 2004 makes sense. And the future course certainly looks different from the path we are on now. Hence the importance i place on getting at the truth.
From FM 3-24.

Quote:
6-39. Another organizational approach is establishing home guard units. In many COIN operations, these units have effectively provided increased security to the populace. Home guards are part-time, lightly armed, local security forces under HN government control. Often, career military and police officers supervise home guards at the provincial and national levels. Home guards provide point security. They guard vital installations that insurgents will likely target, such as government buildings and businesses. Home guards can also provide security for small villages and man gates and checkpoints. While home guards are not trained to conduct offensive operations, their constant presence reminds the populace that the HN government can provide security. Effective home guards can free police and military forces from stationary guard duties.

6-48. Appropriate compensation levels help prevent a culture of corruption in the security forces. It is cheaper to spend the money needed for adequate wages and produce effective security forces than to pay less and end up with corrupt and abusive forces that alienate the populace. Paying the police adequately is especially important; the nature of their duties and contact with the civilian community often expose them to opportunities for corruption. (Table 6-3 lists some important considerations concerning security force pay.)
The formation of CLC would be consistent with the published COIN doctrine. While not an exact application, as demonstrated by the consternation of the Iraqi central government at the formation of many of the CLC groups, one could argue that instead of 3-24 transitioning beyond doctrine (the starting point on how to think about COIN operations) to dogma (a "bible" that one cannot deviate from), it is serving its proper role as a way to frame a point of departure on how to operate.
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Old 01-28-2008   #15
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Default Response to Gentile

My respect to Lt. Col. Gentile, but I take issue with parts of his analysis (although not all of it). Some of his points are spot on.

My response:

http://www.captainsjournal.com/2008/...raq-or-are-we/
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Old 04-07-2008   #16
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Default Officer Questions Petraeus's Strategy

In this morning's Wall Street Journal - Officer Questions Petraeus's Strategy by Yochi Dreazen.

Quote:
... Lt. Col. Gian Gentile, a history professor here who served two tours in Iraq, begs to differ. He argues that Gen. Petraeus's counterinsurgency tactics are getting too much credit for the improved situation in Iraq. Moreover, he argues, concentrating on such an approach is eroding the military's ability to wage large-scale conventional wars...

Col. Gentile is giving voice to an idea that previously few in the military dared mention: Perhaps the Petraeus doctrine isn't all it's cracked up to be. That's a big controversy within a military that has embraced counterinsurgency tactics as a path to victory in Iraq. The debate, sparked by a short essay written by Col. Gentile titled "Misreading the Surge," has been raging in military circles for months. One close aide to Gen. Petraeus recently took up a spirited defense of his boss...

Col. Steve Boylan, a spokesman for Gen. Petraeus, said the surge deserved credit for enabling the other dynamics contributing to Iraq's security gains. "The surge was definitely a factor," he said. "It wasn't the only factor, but it was a key component."

Col. Boylan said that he was familiar with Col. Gentile's arguments but disagreed with them. "I certainly respect the good lieutenant colonel," he said. "But he hasn't been in Iraq for a while, and when you're not on the ground your views can quickly get dated."...

Col. Gentile's arguments have drawn fierce criticism from counterinsurgency advocates, in particular from Gen. Petraeus's chief of staff, Col. Pete Mansoor, who is retiring from the military to teach at Ohio State.

In a posting to Small Wars Journal, a blog devoted to counterinsurgency issues, Col. Mansoor wrote that Col. Gentile "misreads not just what is happening today in Iraq, but the entire history of the war."...
Additional links at SWJ.
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Old 04-07-2008   #17
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He also argues that Israel struggled in its 2006 war with the Iranian-backed militia Hezbollah -- which operates more like a traditional army than a terrorist group -- because the Jewish state had spent years focusing on counterinsurgency. His conclusion is echoed by a historian at the Army's Combat Studies Institute, who concluded in a recent paper that Israel lost the war because "counterinsurgency operations had seriously diminished its conventional war-fighting capabilities."
The observation that Hezbollah operates more like a traditional army is not an accurate one, but it cuts the heart of the argument.

I concur that there is ample evidence that over focus on COIN erodes formation fighting skills, but only if you allow it. This is not a given. (The British Army between 1976-93) It is a product of poor doctrine and understanding. Even the idea that there is COIN and then there is something else -called War-fighting- dodges the hard question, and leads to a false dichotomy.

NOTE: The IDF started as insurgents and switched effortlessly to formation war-fighting skills in 1948, and won! Then fought COIN continuously, apart from breaks for formations level operations in 1956, 67 and 73. - though I admit that it's COIN Ops of the time were typically British and thus quite brutal in nature, by today's standards, - though less so than French methods.
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