June 29, 2007

Operation Arrowhead Ripper Far Ahead of Schedule

Hatched by Dafydd

According to Stars and Stripes, Operation Arrowhead Ripper -- the battle for Baqouba, capital of Diyala province, and the self-declared "capital city" of the Islamic State of Iraq (the umbrella group that subsumed al-Qaeda in Iraq) -- is going amazingly well; in fact, commanders on the ground believe they have passed the major-combat phase and now enter the phase where they must purge the population of al-Qaeda support and sympathy, and induce the rest of the citizenry to start outing them:

That sort of information could prove vital as U.S. and Iraqi forces move into the next phase of operations in Baqouba. With almost no hostile fire reported in days, combat operations are winding down. The focus of the effort now is to consolidate control and persuade local residents to begin cooperating with U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces.

The overall intent of this phase of the Baqouba operation, said Capt. Issac Torres, commander of Company C, is to “lock down the local population and keep pressure on them” until they begin turning in al-Qaida and other insurgents who remain in the city.

Col. Steve Townsend, the commander of 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, says that "about half of the estimated 300 to 500 fighters" fled Baqouba; of the remaining 200 or so, we killed 60 and captured 74 (see the sidebar to the article), for a total of 134. We assume the remaining 65 are still hiding in the city somewhere... which is exactly why the new phase of the operation needs to win, if not the hearts and minds, then at least the self-serving cooperation of citizens sick of losing fingers for smoking or being beaten for allowing vegetables potentially to fornicate. (From Michael Yon, hat tip to Power Line.)

The second phase of the operation is the critical component of counterinsurgency (COIN) that was missing at the end of "major combat operations" in Iraq back in May of 2003:

Two years ago, the Islamic State of Iraq declared the city, about 40 kilometers northeast of Baghdad, to be its capital. Fighting in the city and surrounding areas has worsened since last January when insurgents flocked into Diyala province after President Bush announced a plan to send additional U.S. forces to secure Baghdad.

Although fighting to retake Baqouba proved much easier than expected, the next 60 days will prove crucial as U.S. and Iraqi government forces try to win over the local population and restart the economy and government services. [Amazing that everywhere Wahhabi or Twelver terrorists rule, all government functions come to a grinding halt. What bad luck to have so many decades of bad luck!]

The difference this time from 2003? Both the commander of MNF-I (Gen. David Petreaus) and of CENTCOM (Adm. William Fallon) thoroughly understand that we're fighting a COIN strategy -- not a "war of attrition;" in Vietnam terms, we're emulating winner Creighton Abrams, not loser William Westmoreland.

We enter now the most delicate and difficult phase: We must convince the Baqouba Sunnis that al-Qaeda, instead of being mujahadeen and martyrs fighting holy war, are actually terrorist apostates engaging in unholy war -- "irhabiyoun murtaddi" committing "hirabah," to use the "new lexicon" for the war against global jihad (or rather, global hirabah) suggested by Jim Guirard at Small Wars Journal... and assuming I'm getting the endings correct.

(I think I'll change our category "War on Global Jihadism" to "War on Global Hirabah," just to inaugurate the anti-terrorist newspeak. That will take place a few hours from now, after I rebuild the database.)

If once a big enough minority of Iraqi citizens admit that the butchers among them (Shia and Sunni) are not fighting a holy but an unholy war, and that they're terrorists and apostates, not martyrs and faithful, the job will finish itself. So fingers crossed (how Crusader like!) that the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team is as successful in Phase II as they have been in Phase I.

If so, then even Majority Leader Harry "we've already lost" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy "the surge has already failed" Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) will be hard-pressed to enunciate a convincing reason for immediate panic and withdrawal.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 29, 2007, at the time of 5:19 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Mr. Michael

Speaking of Small Wars Journal, I assume you've read David Kilcullen's article from the 26th about "Understanding Current Operations in Iraq"? He confirms everything you have been speculating about concerning General P's strategy over there. The most interesting point he made was that their target was not killing the terrorists (although it's a nice side effect) but rather freeing the Populace. The plan says that we have a hard time finding the 'bad guys' in a crowd, but we can identify the 'good guys', free and protect them, and then THEY will go after the 'bad guys'.


He also points out that the raw numbers of casualties paints a poor picture of how much SAFER it is for our troops out there... VERY nice.

But passing the major combat phase and transitioning to the follow-up phases would be a local thing... the pink/red zone line is moving away from the white zones, and I'm not sure that we're going to give it a chance to stop.

The above hissed in response by: Mr. Michael [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 29, 2007 11:04 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Mr. Michael:

No, I hadn't read it. But I have now... thanks!

In one section, Kilcullen talks about protecting the population, driving away the bad guys, then moving in to stay and training locals to guard their own henhouses; this sounds an awful lot like my suggested strategy of "whack a mole, seal a hole." I'll definitely blog on this.

I guess sometimes, even a mediocre mind can think the same thought as a great one... and I'll leave it as an exercise to the alert reader which of us is which <g>.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 30, 2007 2:20 AM

The following hissed in response by: Mike

In other good news, 50% of Baghdad is under our control. So far, we're seeing more cooperation from the tribes.

Now, I don't have a fancy journalist degree, but I've noticed that journalists reported the US controlled a mere 19% a few months ago, a paltry 40% weeks ago and a trifling 50% today.

The heroic resistance is stiffening of course. "We have many arrows in our quiver, and we are sharpening them," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

The above hissed in response by: Mike [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 30, 2007 6:05 AM

The following hissed in response by: Rovin

"We have many arrows in our quiver, and we are sharpening them," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.


I just about spit my coffee out when I heard the "queenie" make this statement. One would wonder if the lady even knows how to string or even draw a bow------even retorically. If one time Pelosi had the fortitude to point her quiver of arrows at our real enemies, (and I'm not refering to her anti-war cronies), and not attack our leadership for polical gain,-----whoops, dreamin' again.

Why this woman believes that the conservative party is more of an enemy than terrorist just boggles the mind.

The above hissed in response by: Rovin [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 30, 2007 7:41 AM

The following hissed in response by: SlimGuy

For some real good background on the logic behind the surge, this is another review of how the concept works.

The above hissed in response by: SlimGuy [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 30, 2007 8:24 AM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

Our governing class deludes themselves that being tough minded equals acting sincere when declaring defeat.
Think how this war could be energized if our governing class had applied, say, 50% of the effort they just wasted on immigration on actually winning the war.
Americans want victory. They are being sold half measures and admissions of defeat.
There is no rational way to accurately characterize where we are in this war as 'defeated' or 'lost'.
Yet the public square is awash in defeatist effluent and the MSM is lapping it up.
I still blame the WH for not selling, and keeping sold, this war. I see this amount of open bipartisan poultroonery as a failure of leadership from the top.
The victories in this war - liberation of millions, disarming of Libya, continuing domestic security, very low casualty rates, improving anticipation, penetration and disruption of terrorist efforts, the weakening of Iran, the progress in North Korea, etc., none of this is coherently laid out by the Administration in a compelling fashion.
Instead we get vastly unpopular, hugely over broad, immigration reform shoved on us.
Why this is happening from a WH so filled with talent I do not understand.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 30, 2007 9:22 AM

The following hissed in response by: Terry Gain

I respectfully disagree with the contention that the COIN operation being pursued by General Petraeus ought to have been pursued earlier.

Lest I be misunderstood let me say that I wholeheartedly agree with the Surge. But whether the Surge works will not depend on what American forces do but what Iraqi forces and the Iraqi people do. My point is that Iraqi forces weren't ready for the Surge until recently.

American forces will, without question, clear designated areas of insurgents. Whether those areas remain clear will depend upon Iraqis.

It should be clear therefore that the ultimate fate of Iraq is in the hands of Iraqis. We cannot "win" this thing for them. We can however contribute substantially to their defeat by prematurely withdawing-i.e. withdrawing before all insurgent areas have been cleared.

I say this because, while it is not clear Iraqis will be able to hold areas which have been cleared- (I think they will be able to)- it seems clear that Iraqis will not be able to clear insurgent dominated areas by themselves- at least not without so much bloodshed that the future of Iraq would be imperiled.

Talk about America losing this war is painfully silly. America is not fighting a war. It is trying to create an environment where the Iraqi people opt for democracy and the rule of law. If they do not, it will not be because of anything America did or failed to do. It will be because Iraq is not ready for democracy. The failure will be theirs-and if we withdraw prematurely- the failure of those who insisted upon defeat as they, for partisan purposes, cheered every setback and worked for the defeat of the mission.

The above hissed in response by: Terry Gain [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 30, 2007 10:26 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Terry Gain:

Lest I be misunderstood let me say that I wholeheartedly agree with the Surge. But whether the Surge works will not depend on what American forces do but what Iraqi forces and the Iraqi people do. My point is that Iraqi forces weren't ready for the Surge until recently.

Excellent point. I've been thinking about the best analogy to what we're doing in Iraq, and it occurred to me that we have done this before: in Colombia, when we sent American military and police forces in to help protect the population from both the drug cartels (primarily Cali and Medellin) and from FARC, the Communist insurgency that operates from the jungle.

The purpose of our intervention was to protect enough of the population to provide a breathing space for the government of Colombia, which had been decimated by repeated attacks, assassinations, corruption, and kidnappings, to gather its wits and come up with a long-term security plan -- which they did.

They also, at our urging, implemented a number of human-rights reforms, to render the political environment less toxic, so FARC's natural recruiting ground of impoverished and desperate peasants would be reduced markedly.

In the meantime, we and the Colombians working together by and large destroyed the huge drug cartels; FARC is still active, but they're no longer staging full-scale military assaults, as they did in the 1990s and early 2000s. In another five years or so, I believe FARC will cease to be a significant force in that country.

Substitute Sunni Wahhabi terrorists for the drug cartels and Iranian-backed Shiite militias for FARC, and you have a very good analogy of what we're trying to do in Iraq. It may or may not eventually work... but everything else that has been suggested has failed miserably, so this is clearly the best shot we've got.

And frankly, I'm very optimistic that it will succeed. Much depends upon the Iraqi Shia; but they know that their own enlightened self-interest also hinges on avoiding a civil war and bringing the Sunni and Kurds into the fold.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 1, 2007 12:20 AM

The following hissed in response by: Seaberry

I've been following the Small Wars Journal for a couple of weeks now (provides many other interesting links), and it just keeps getting better. Apparently, David Kilcullen is on General David Petraeus' senior staff in Baghdad and and is a big part of the 'Surge' concept. Here's another one that Kilcullen has written (has a brief history of him at the beginning):

New Paradigms for 21st Century Conflict

Jim Guirard also writes for the Small Wars Journal, and today breaks down one part of Kilcullen's 'New Paradigms' - ...the proposed New Lexicon

The following quote from it really got my attention:

irhab (eer-HAB) -- Arabic for terrorism, thus enabling us to call the al Qaeda-style killers irhabis, irhabists and irhabiyoun rather than the so-called "jihadis" and "jihadists" and "mujahideen" and "shahids" (martyrs) they badly want to be called. (Author's lament: Here we are, almost six years into a life-and-death War on Terrorism, and most of us do not even know this basic Arabic for terrorism.)

He makes a good point with the "almost six years", as I end this blushingly....

The above hissed in response by: Seaberry [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 1, 2007 5:10 AM

The following hissed in response by: exDemo

I think many here over estimate the time needed to accomplish the objectives for winning, over the long term.

Let us return to the insurgencies that succeeded and failed elsewhere for examples.

Columbia was a success for the Colombians; Malaya for the Brits and Malayans was a success; the anti-Sandinista insurrection was successful; Indonesia's rejection of the leftist takeover, in 1965 was a success for the Indonesians; without American intervention in Indo-China there would not have been the will to resist. The liberation of all of East Europe (including Russia) would not have been a success for the Germans, Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Lithuanians, Estonians, Latvians, Ukrainians, Georgians, and Russians, without American led resistance to Communism, and the waging of the Cold War.

Vietnam, a hot chapter of the Cold War, for the US was an initial success, but an eventual failure when the Leftists at home prevented any reinforcements three years after the South Vietnamese fought their insurrection to a standstill. North Vietnam prevailed by a classical full military invasion just like north Korea attempted, and Saddam's' Iraq attempted over Kuwait. Unlike these two cases, when their was no willing America to fight again, the North Vietnamese invasion succeeded even though the South Vietnamese fought on until overwhelmed.

Iraq is where South Vietnam was in 1972, except much better off. It has a similar war prostrated economy but a lot of Oil to revive it. The Persians are distinctly different and long hated by the Arabs, unlike the North and So Vietnamese who were virtually indistinguishable. The opposition is much weaker. Asymmetrical warfare carried to the extreme that occur in Iraq leads to little real military force. The present Iraqi Army and national Police are much stronger than the South Vietnamese equivalents were an dth military opposition is infinitely weaker. The support for the terrorists is much much weaker as well. The support consists of a non-nation state, al Queda, whose resources are limited and exhausted. An undeveloped country, Persia, overexposed in many places, Hamas, Hezb'Allah, Syria, Taliban, Iraq and domestically in Iran proper.

Persia is like North Vietnam, an economic basket case, but Iran is unable to call on the military and economic support of half the world as allies. North Vietnam could call on the Communist world to rebuild, resupply, re-arm, and eventually prevail. Its police state insured the North Vietnamese would not rebel. Persia is alone with lots of domestic unrest,and small active insurgencies in progress at two ends of its own country.

The free Iraqis have much more resources to prevail, (Oil and just discovered, lots more Sunni territory Oil) and their enemies are largely foreign and weaker.

Guerrillas must be indistinguishable to hide among the populace. For example: You can't fight a guerrilla war in Alabama where all the guerrillas speak the language with a Yankee Maine down-East accent, or a foreign Quebecois French accent. The guerrillas stick out like a sore thumb. But that is pretty much what the case is in Iraq. Iraq is reconciling politically. The 1920 Brigades are the remnant dead end Baathist pinning for a return of Saddam. Who is dead and buried leaders exiled or killed. Reality is dawning as the Iraqi government is offering amnesty to the low level functionaries of the former Baathist Regime. The Sunni are reconciling with the Iraqi Shia dominated government. Local tribal leaders stick their neck out for no one. But they are coming down hard on the foreign al Quedists. At least 25 tribes, former insurgents, have joined the Anbar Awakening.

Why? It is safe (or safer), to do so, and their constituent Sunni population are fed up with the foreign terrorists, and demand it.

I am convinced that GWB will make an announcement late this Fall that the "Surge" has been a success. Victory while not yet attained, is now assured. American troops will start winding down and withdrawing, just like the Brits in Basra, over the next year.

End of the anti-War idiot's platforms. They chose DEFEAT as a program to sell.

This will be declared VICTORY instead; and a phased wind-down and return to peace. There are some who will say this is like Senator Aiken's advice for Vietnam. Declare "Victory" and withdraw.

But the reality is that Iraq can and will be able to stand on it own, either indefinitely, or for a lot longer time than South Vietnam was. Certainly longer than the Persian theocracy does, I'm willing to wager.

What program do you suppose the American public will support and vote for ??

The above hissed in response by: exDemo [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 1, 2007 12:51 PM

The following hissed in response by: Pam

Another great review. Dafydd do you think the Republicans will have the stomach to face down the Democrates yet again come September. Lugar and Vonivich (sp)seem to be signling a breaking of the ranks.

The above hissed in response by: Pam [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 1, 2007 1:59 PM

The following hissed in response by: Seaberry

Jim Guirard has his own website TrueSpeak Institute. One quote from it (THE POWER OF WORDS):

(TrueSpeak Comment: Let Stalin choose the words by which you think and Stalin will tell you what to think -- or not to think. And let bin Laden choose for us the self-canonizing language of "Jihadi martyrdom," and he will have us polishing his "holy guy" halo and conceding that we are, indeed, the "Great Satan" he so falsely says that we are.)

The SWJ is one heck of a find...

The above hissed in response by: Seaberry [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 1, 2007 3:01 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


You'd have to break an awful lot of ranks to get 67 votes to override a veto in the Senate and 290 in the House; you would need 17 Republican senators to defect (assuming Lieberman stays with the war) and 57 Republican representatives.

That's a huge defection and would have to include not only the liberal RINOs but the pro-war conservatives as well. If the news is even remotely good, I can't see Bush's veto of, say, authorization or enabling legislation that includes timetables being overridden.

Thus, the Democrats would have to be willing to shut down the military -- right before an election -- in order to defund the war. I just don't see it; it would be electoral suicide.

The veto pen is a fearsome weapon.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 1, 2007 6:09 PM

The following hissed in response by: Pam

I hope you're right. I've thought all along we're in it for the long haul; for the sake of the nation, I don't want to be wrong.

The above hissed in response by: Pam [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 2, 2007 5:59 PM

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