July 2, 2007

COINs and Moles and Stuff; a Round-Up

Hatched by Dafydd

Let's start with the good news (sorry, no bad news this time; so this can't be mainstream News!) Baghdad pacification proceeds apace, and we now firmly control half of the city that all agree is the linchpin of Iraq (or, with the recent executions, perhaps the lynchpin):

In the face of stiffening insurgent resistance, U.S. and Iraqi security forces now control about half of Baghdad, the American commander overseeing operations said Friday.

Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil, Jr., commander of Multi-National Division Baghdad, told reporters at the Pentagon that progress in securing the capital has been steady and that while he could use more U.S. troops he believes he has enough -- with the recent arrival of reinforcements -- to complete his mission....

Fil said American and Iraqi security forces now control 48% to 49% of the 474 neighborhoods in Baghdad. That is up from 19% in April, he said. Two weeks ago his boss, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, said about 40% of the city was under control.

Fil defined "control" as "where we have our security forces there and we're denying that space to enemy forces." [In Col. David Galula's lexicon, these would be "white" areas.]

U.S. and Iraqi forces are conducting clearing operations in 36% of the capital's neighborhoods ["pink" areas] -- about the same percentage as in April, he said. In neighborhoods that are neither under control nor in the process of being cleared ["red" areas -- now down to 15% of Baghdad], coalition forces are "disrupting" insurgent forces, Fil said.

And it's not just Sunni areas we're holding, clearing, or disrupting: We have commenced moving heavily into Sadr City, much to the public chagrin (and temper tantrum) of Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki condemned a U.S. raid Saturday in Baghdad's Shiite Sadr City slum - a politically sensitive district for him - in which American troops searching for Iranian-linked militants sparked a firefight that left 26 Iraqis dead.

The U.S. military said all those killed in the fighting were gunmen, some of them firing from behind civilian cars. But residents said eight civilians were killed in their homes and angrily accused American troops of firing wildly during the pre-dawn assault.

It's odd that we're always "firing wildly;" and yet in these gunfights, there typically are major enemy casualties -- and hardly any Americans shot.

Al-Maliki last year banned military operations in Sadr City without his approval after complaints from his Shiite political allies. The ban frustrated U.S. commanders pushing for a crackdown on the Mahdi Army, blamed for sectarian killings.

Al-Maliki later agreed that no area of the capital was off-limits, after President Bush ordered reinforcements to Iraq as part of the Baghdad security operation.

And now he's whining again. Fiddle-de-dee! I suspect it's more for internal theater than any real objection to our raids: Muqtada Sadr, still nominal head of the Mahdi Militia, represents a rival Shiite power source; it's hard to imagine Maliki's loyalty to his old friend would slop over into carrying water for the renegade, virtually illiterate "cleric"... who himself is carrying water (or perhaps Uranium) for the Iranian mullahs.

Maliki's faux anger reminds me of Groucho Marx ("Otis P. Driftwood") in a Night at the Opera. He's having lunch with a floozy he picked up, when he sees rich patron of the opera Margaret Dumont (Mrs. Claypool) -- with whom he was supposed to lunch -- waiting in annoyance at the next table. The waiter brings the check for the meal that Driftwood and his girl du jour just ate, and he picks it up...

Otis P. Driftwood: Let me see that... 9 dollars and 40 cents? This is an outrage! If I were you I wouldn't pay it.

Then Groucho promptly switches tables and begins sweet-talking Mrs. Claypool. I strongly suspect that after declaring our raid to be an outrage, Maliki too will quietly switch tables and suggest a few more Sadr-City oases to hit. (Another movie quote, this time from Casablanca, that is apropos: "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!")

The U.S. military said it conducted two pre-dawn raids in Sadr City, killing 26 "terrorists" who attacked U.S. troops with small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and roadside bombs. But Iraqi officials said all the dead were civilians.

Of course... technically, Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri are also "civilians;" they're certainly not in anybody's official army, navy, or air force. So let's say both sides are right: We killed 26 civilian terrorist combatants -- sorry, make that "terrorists," scare-quotes and all.

But what's all this in service of? Where are we really going with this counterinsurgency? Who better to instruct us but retired Australian Lt.Col. David Kilcullen. Who is David Kilcullen, some might ask? Well, Wikipedia is usually fairly reliable for simple biographical details of newsmakers:

David Kilcullen, Ph.D. (born 1967) is a leading contemporary practitioner and theorist of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. A former Australian Army officer, he left the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2005 and is now a senior civil servant, seconded to the United States State Department. He is currently serving as Senior Counterinsurgency Adviser, Multi-National Force - Iraq, a civilian position on the personal staff of American General David Howell Petraeus.

Currently based at the US State Department, Dr Kilcullen, 39, has a doctorate in political anthropology, focusing on the effects of guerrilla warfare on non-state political systems in traditional societies. (His thesis was on the political power-diffusion effects of successful and failed counter-insurgency operations in Indonesia.) He has served in several counterinsurgency and guerrilla warfare campaigns in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, as well as in peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations. While based at the U.S. State Department he has served as Chief Strategist in the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, and has worked in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Horn of Africa and South-East Asia. He has also written several very influential papers on the insurgency in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

(He also advises Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which I find surprisingly unsurprising.)

He wrote one of the most fascinating explications of the general purpose behind a counterinsurgency strategy ("COIN") and how it differs from ordinary warfare. Here is the most important point from Kilcullen's important summation of the important purpose and method of the urgently important counterinsurgency in Iraq:

When we speak of "clearing" an enemy safe haven, we are not talking about destroying the enemy in it; we are talking about rescuing the population in it from enemy intimidation. If we don't get every enemy cell in the initial operation, that's OK. The point of the operations is to lift the pall of fear from population groups that have been intimidated and exploited by terrorists to date, then win them over and work with them in partnership to clean out the cells that remain -- as has happened in Al Anbar Province and can happen elsewhere in Iraq as well.

The "terrain" we are clearing is human terrain, not physical terrain. It is about marginalizing al Qa’ida, Shi’a extremist militias, and the other terrorist groups from the population they prey on. This is why claims that “80% of AQ leadership have fled” don’t overly disturb us: the aim is not to kill every last AQ leader, but rather to drive them off the population and keep them off, so that we can work with the community to prevent their return.

Kilcullen notes that this isn't due to kind-heartedness; rather, the purpose of the strategy is fourfold:

  1. To separate the terrorist enemy from his most potent weapons: the Iraqi people;
  2. "The enemy is fluid, but the population is fixed." That is, we know where to find the population, but we cannot distinguish the insurgents from the citizens who just want to live, work, and trade. We cannot kill all the enemy; that's impossible. But we can protect the population and drive out the insurgency. So we do what we can and not what we can't.
  3. By cutting the insurgents off from their captive populations, we "asphyxiate" them:

    [The enemy] has either to come out of the woodwork, fight us and be destroyed, or stay quiet and accept permanent marginalization from his former population base.
  4. Finally, we know who the population is but not who the insurgents are:

    [W]e know who the population is that we need to protect, we know where they live, and we can protect them without unbearable disruption to their lives. And more to the point, we can help them protect themselves, with our forces and ISF in overwatch.

(I know, I know, some of the differences between these points are subtle; don't worry, I don't get them either.)

So if our goal is to protect the population, rather than kill some target number of terrorist insurgents, is it working? Are we protecting the population better than we have been in the past?

We certainly don't know for sure yet; the actual COIN operations have barely begun (they started in earnest about two weeks ago). But even so, already civilian casualties are dropping like a stone; here's Power Line's John Hinderaker, my favorite blogger from my favorite blog:

Iraqi government figures suggest that civilian casualties nationwide were down something like 36% in June, for the lowest total this year. I don't know how reliable these numbers are, but the trend clearly seems to be positive. American military commanders said it is too soon to credit the "surge," since the full complement of troops has only been in place for a couple of weeks and operations are ongoing. Again, though, the cause and effect relationship appears pretty clear.

But it's not just the government; even the elite media agree. The website Iraq Coalition Casualty Count keeps track of all media reports of civilian deaths and woundings in Iraq; it's certainly not influenced by the governments of either Iraq or the United States, and it's a completely different count than the one from the Iraqi government.

Yet it shows virtually the same result:

The civilian death toll shows that in May of 2007, there were 1,782 civilian deaths in Iraq reported by the MSM. In April, it was 1,521, and in March, 2,762.

But last month, June of 2007, the elite media reported only 1,146 civilian deaths: that's a drop of 36% from last month (just as the government figures showed by a different count), a 60% drop from this year's high (February, 2,864 deaths), and the lowest rate of civilian deaths since last July.

So to put it on a nutshell...

  • We now control 50% of Baghdad;
  • We're moving hot and heavy in both Sunni and Shiite enclaves;
  • Our purpose is less to kill insurgents than to protect the population from the terrorists' wicked depredations;
  • And in point of fact, there is hard (albeit early) evidence that we're succeeding at just that.

And that is the very definition of -- good news!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 2, 2007, at the time of 5:51 AM

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The following hissed in response by: Seaberry

Great to see parts of the MSM (AP, USA, etc) finally starting to pick up on David Kilcullen and the SWJ, and I suspect more will reluctantly start to follow over the next few days. Too bad they weren't more involved sooner. If you are a reporter, then how the heck do you miss David Kilcullen and blogs like the SWJ!? Never mind…foolish question.

The SWJ has another article up today, On Understanding Current Operations in Iraq, that starts by linking to a Weekly Standard article by William Kristol with this - "Richard Lugar, Meet David Kilcullen". It continues with a long list of other links that provide "Some initial reactions, commentary and links concerning Dave Kilcullen’s SWJ post".

Saw only one with 'Bad News' or commentary, Abu Muqawama at Abu Muqawama (?) - Thoughts on Kilcullen:

Okay, says Abu Muqawama, that all sounds good. But the reality is that at this stage the future of the American presence in Iraq is going to be determined by the domestic political debate in Washington, not by events on the ground in Iraq. Abu Muqawama suspects Kilcullen knows this and just can't say it, but even though the U.S. Army and Marine Corps have settled on what very well may have been a "winning" strategy, the American public and its politicians have lost faith in this effort and think it will be about time, come the fall, to bring (most of) the boys home.

Abu makes some more good points in the article.

The above hissed in response by: Seaberry [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 2, 2007 8:48 AM

The following hissed in response by: Fritz

Now we get to watch and see how few column inches the MSM devotes to this. However, I'm sure we will see many column inches, in those same MSM outlets, quoting various Senators and Representatives saying the war is lost. As an aside, has anyone noticed the difference in the amount of MSM coverage of Joe Lieberman since the MSM decided the war is lost? He went from being their fair-haired boy, and frequently mentioned and quoted, to being a non-entity. As far as that goes, the MSM rarely gives much coverage to anything the President says unless they are trying to poke fun of it.

The above hissed in response by: Fritz [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 2, 2007 10:29 AM

The following hissed in response by: exDemo

The "Surge" succeeds.

Anbar is the last "homeland refuge" of AQI. Diyallah was the attempt by AQI to set up an alternate "homeland" in response to the difficult situation for them in Anbar. Diyallah is not a perfect alternate "homeland", as it is a religiously split province with both Sunni and Shia communities. But it was the only possible remaining alternative.

Now the Baghdad city surrounding towns that are Sunni majority, are also being attacked leaving AQI no where to turn.

The fifteen previously pacified "white provinces" are almost wholly Shia or Kurdish, all having already successfully killed them and/or driven them out. The AQI only had three provinces, Baghdad City province, Diyallah province and it real homeland Anbar province, to offer a refuge and a place to rest, refit, train, and plan.

The "Anbar Awakening" is probably more significant than the Surge itself. Denying the last in-country location for the AQI to hide is devastating.

The Iraqi government has accomplished much in reconciling indigenous domestic Iraqi opposition. It is a untold story and offers great prognosis for the future. Reconciling both armed and unarmed domestic opposition is not being recognized for what it portends.

The Anbar tribes joined by the Baghdad city Sunni tribes and the Sunni tribes in Diyallah essentially has defused most or at least a good portion of the Sunni opposition. The reconciliation of the "1920 Brigades" demonstrates that the Baathist dead-enders are becoming realistic; the Baathist regime will not arise again. The political offers of amnesty of low level Baathists, is providing a reconciliation of that group. It removes another source of indigenous Iraqi opposition and insurgency.

In is important o restate that over 26 insurgent groups or Sunni Tribes, have now joined with the Iraqi government.

Sadr, a Shia has been discredited as a Persian stooge, can not creditably stand against a freely elected and Shia dominated majority government. Sadr can make noises about foreign occupation, but when the Americans leave, what can he do? He is also not a respected Muslim leader in comparison to Ayatollah Sistani. His reputation comes from his father, respected Muslim Ayatollah. Increasingly even his own supporters concede the son is not the equal of the father, but rather a fool.

The Maliki, or any other Shia dominated government could defeat him, if there were no issue of foreign occupation.

The idea of the Surge seems to be to reduce or bled down, the real killers, al Queda, while we have the surfeit of troops. If they can be reduced to a homeless contingent without a refuge, the Iraqis can continue to take them down, on their own.

To a lesser extent the Americans seem to be trying to limit al Sadr's military strength,that Persia has supplied. The gradations in internal Shia political support, are difficult for an outsider to distinguish. But it is highly unlikely that Sadr can really stand against a majority Shia elected government.

It is impossible for the foreign Persians to militarily invade Iraq in defense of their fellow "oppressed" Shia co-religionists. When they would be fighting against a Shia MAJORITY elected Iraqi government. IOW, Iraq won't fall like South Vietnam did to a massive conventional military invasion.

"Iraqization" is almost ready for unveiling, this Fall. The nice thing is that GW Bush is not up for election; he is stubborn and persistent enough to carry on the fight until the last day of his Administration,were that necessary. That increasingly appears to be more than long enough. Announcing "Imminent Victory" and a phased troop withdrawal, will defuse the Iraq war as a domestic political argument.

The above hissed in response by: exDemo [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 2, 2007 10:46 AM

The following hissed in response by: rich

Flares into darkness put the neighborhood info into tabular form:

April June April June
Disruption 194 76 41% 16%
Clearance 166 166 35% 35%
Controlling 90 180 19% 38%
Retention 24 52 5% 11%

Total Neighborhoods****474


A while back IBD had an editorial comparing losses in prior wars:


". . . the U.S. has killed roughly 650 terrorists a month, according to published reports and Defense Department estimates. That compares with about 37 U.S. combat deaths per month, through May. The ratio, thus, is about 18 terrorists killed in combat for every allied soldier killed. . ."

". . . Since the war began, we've lost about 70 troops a month. This compares with 526 a month in Vietnam, more than 900 a month in Korea and 6,639 a month during World War II. . ."

". . . the media [is] misreporting the numbers. Just weeks into the war in 2003, we started hearing the now-oft-repeated canard that Iraq was worse off with the U.S. than with Saddam. This is so plainly wrong that it must be called what it is: a lie.

[For reasons of copyright, this is too much of the editorial to quote; I have snipped this section. You are welcome to write a new comment summarizing the remainder...! -- the Mgt.]


The only thing missing from the statistics in the second excerpted paragraph above is the size of the country at the time of these wars.

Today the country has a population of 300 million (Iraq & Afghanistan @ 70 losses per month.)

At the time of Viet Nam (1968) the country had a population of 200 million (Vietnam @ 526 losses per month.)

At the time of the korean War (1950) the country had a population of 152 million (Korean War @ 900 losses per month.)

At the time of WW II (1942) the country had a population of 134 million (WW II @ 6639 losses per month.)

The point being that the casualties in the earlier wars had a larger effect on the total population of the USA, especially WW II.

A Further comment on casualties in the recent phanthom thunder operations in Iraq was posted by David Kilcullen:

". . . So much for theory. The practice, as always, has been mixed. Personally, I think we are doing reasonably well and casualties have been lower so far than I feared. Every single loss is a tragedy. But so far, thank God, the loss rate has not been too terrible: casualties are up in absolute terms, but down as a proportion of troops deployed (in the fourth quarter of 2006 we had about 100,000 troops in country and casualties averaged 90 deaths a month; now we have almost 160,000 troops in country but deaths are under 120 per month, much less than a proportionate increase, which would have been around 150 a month). And last year we patrolled rarely, mainly in vehicles, and got hit almost every time we went out. Now we patrol all the time, on foot, by day and night with Iraqi units normally present as partners, and the chances of getting hit are much lower on each patrol. We are finally coming out of the "defensive crouch" with which we used to approach the environment, and it is starting to pay off. . . "


The above hissed in response by: rich [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 2, 2007 10:57 AM

The following hissed in response by: Phoenix Musings

One development that I keep waiting to see from the Iraqi government is an equitable oil wealth sharing plan. As I understand it there is also no private ownership of property. Does anyone know if this is true? If true I can't help but believe that many Iraqis would find a new reason to fight for their freedom and to reconcile with former foes if they owned the properties that are their homes and businesses.

The above hissed in response by: Phoenix Musings [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 2, 2007 11:09 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Phoenix Musings:

I hadn't heard that there was "no private owership of property," and it doesn't sound very likely to me. If you could find a link, perhaps?

As far as oil, with the discovery of reserves in the Sunni areas as well as the Shiite and Kurdish, a better solution than pushing the Iraqi government might be for us to send a bunch of contractors to the areas of Sunni oil reserves and start training Sunnis how to extract and sell oil.

That way, they're not hostage to the government living up to the promise of any future oil-revenue sharing agreement... they would have their own source of revenue.

And besides, more oil on the market means a lower price for oil and natural gas worldwide.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 2, 2007 1:20 PM

The following hissed in response by: rich

Here is a comparison of Iraq under Saddam and Iraq since the war started in 2003.

". . . In his 24 years as Iraq's Stalinist supreme leader, Saddam Hussein killed at least 2 million people. That averages out to about 6,944 a month for the better part of three decades.

Most responsible estimates show that, at most, 60,000 or so civilians have been killed since the war started, about 1,200 a month.

Moreover, no one doubts that Saddam was responsible for all 2 million of his deaths. In the case of the U.S., most of the civilian deaths come from al-Qaida and other terrorists, not U.S. troops. . . ."


Saddam and the insurgents/Al Qaeda are responsible for most of the deaths in Iraq.

Here is an extension of these statistics. It is a projection and like all projections must be taken with a grain of salt.

If we had not invaded Iraq this analysis indicates Saddam would have likely killed 5700 more people a month than have actually died, for the 51 months of the war up until this date.

Thus it is probable that the war has prevented about 290,000 deaths that Saddam would have been responsible for if his regime had continued his homicidal rule. (5700 x 51= 290,000.)

The above hissed in response by: rich [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 2, 2007 3:15 PM

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