Thursday, May 26, 2005

Flurry

For Scott Peterson of the Christian Science Monitor the counterinsurgency campaign is taking on a shape. (Hat tip: DL) He believes the Iraqi insurgency is "under pressure" from repeated assaults but has shown the ability to reconstitute itself by moving to new locations.

it is under increasing pressure from numerous US offensives in western Iraq, the loss of two-dozen top lieutenants, and intelligence from Zarqawi's captured computer. Iraq's budding government is also tightening its grip, announcing Thursday that it would launch a new offensive with 40,000 troops and set up 600 checkpoints in Baghdad. ... "If he (Zarqawi) dies, it would be a blow," says Mr. Ranstorp, contacted in Copenhagen. "It may atomize the insurgency, and different centers of gravity would emerge. He is a unifying factor for them."  Those divisions already appear to be taking root, with competing claims Thursday on the Web about the appointment of an interim leader of the group. ...

The intense violence of May has also hidden thefact that fewer attacks have taken place against US and Iraqi government targets, according to US officials. They say that the current surge - 118 car bombs since mid-April - was ordered by Zarqawi at a meeting last month in Syria. ... But success in one place often just shifts the problem to another. "It's like toothpaste: You squeeze somewhere, and it just pushes the insurgents somewhere else in Iraq," says Toby Dodge, an Iraq expert at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London. "It would work if you had enough people to cover the ground."

Dan Darling at Winds of Change believes that after being driven out of Fallujah, Zarqawi attempted to reconstitute  in Mosul but was unsuccessful. He then fell back on the area near the Syrian border but that was assaulted too. An earlier post suggested that Operation New Market, a battalion-sized attack on Haditha, was significant because it demonstrated that the Coalition could maintain a high operational tempo. The announcement of the massive Operation Thunder involving 40 battalion equivalents of Iraqi police and troops right on the heels of New Market suggests that the tempo has not only increased but that the rate of increase itself is rising.

The Iraqi Prime Minister sought yesterday to recapture the initiative by reaching out to hostile Sunnis and international critics, even as his Government announced an unprecedented security operation involving 40,000 police and soldiers in Baghdad. ... the capital would be divided into 2 sectors and 15 districts where police would operate 24 hours a day, monitoring all foreigners and “going into every hotel, every restaurant and every street and take to prison every Arab who does not have authorisation to be here”. ... Dr Jaafari said that the clampdown was intelligence-driven. The original plan was to control 23 access points to Baghdad on the assumption that car bombs were being made outside the city and brought in, but that had to be changed, he said. “Recently we have discovered that there are factories within Baghdad . . . a car can be driven and loaded within an hour to become a car bomb. This forced us to modify the plan.”

The US ability to increase tempo effectively means that it has more troops, even though the actual number of personnel may remain the same. When 'toothpaste' is coralled faster than it can ooze, using the metaphor of the Iraq expert Toby Dodge, the insurgency will be forced into lower and lower energy states. The surprising thing about this uptick in tempo is that there are actually fewer American troops in Iraq today than three months ago: it stands at 138,000, down from February's high of 155,000. The downside of increasing tempo means US troops are working at a faster clip and are exposed to more combat situations.

But high tempos may also cause a gradual breakdown in the enemy response times which may save lives in the long run. Historically, the winning force has sought to speed up operations once it felt the measure of the enemy. One of the best examples was the US Navy practice of using the same ships under different admirals during the Pacific War. Ships would sail as the 3rd Fleet and after their mission pick up a new command group to re-sortie as the 5th Fleet: "the same team of horses with a different driver". The practice was hard on the USN sailors but catastrophic for the Imperial Japanese Navy because the blows arrived faster than they believed possible. Historically, an acceleration in operations has often marked a discontinuity in what seemed to be static situations. While not always the case, it often signals that a crisis is approaching. Things will become clear soon enough.

18 Comments:

Blogger Don Black said...

...and yet the MSM is bogged down in trying to prove that a Koran was flushed, missing the point of on going operations in Iraq.

Good work, Wretchard.

5/27/2005 05:50:00 AM  
Blogger Doug Santo said...

Good Post.

MSM information on Iraq is often limited in depth and generally skewed negative towards US and Coalition forces. Not withstanding this, MSM reports clearly indicate several important developments with respect to the terrorists/insurgents:

1. Enemy lines are thin.
2. Their flanks are exposed and being exploited.
3. The enemy grows weaker in terms of personnel while our strength remains constant.
4. US/coalition strength is effectively multiplied by US intelligence, equipment, and tactics.
5. US tactics evolve rapidly in response to enemy activities.
6. Enemy tactics are limited and have evolved to their penultimate state - suicide murder of Iraqi civilians.
7. Politically the enemy is defeated. Iraqi government/US/Coalition forces grow in political strength day-by-day.
8. Victory over the insurgency is approachng and may be closer than common wisdom suggests.
9. Continued terrorist activity in the form of uncoordinated suicide attacks of low sophistication perpetrated against civilians is not evidence of a strong insurgency no matter how western journalists portray it. It is evidence of coming defeat for the terrorists/insurgents.

Doug Santo
Pasadena, CA

5/27/2005 08:03:00 AM  
Blogger TallDave said...

Great thoughts, thanks for sharing.

Hope the Iraqi/Coalition keep the tempo up as it seems to be having a salutary effect. Already, moderate Sunnis are fleeing into their arms.

5/27/2005 08:03:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr said...

I wonder what effect the lengthier-than-anticipated struggle is going to have on U.S. domestic politics and willingness to take other significant military actions in the future. I think that is the main question. Ultimate victory in Iraq has never (IMO) been in doubt.

5/27/2005 08:20:00 AM  
Blogger Fernand_Braudel said...

A closer analogy would be Napoleon's pursuit of the Prussian army after the twin battles of Jena/Auerstadt.

Driving his corps commanders relentlessly to stay on the heals of the retreating Prussians, Napoleon sacrificed nearly half of the mounts for his light cavalry regiments by driving them on until the horses gave out.

But the results were fantastic, bagging 10,000 Prussians here, 20,000 there, until eventually his regimental commanders had the Prussians so intimidated that fortresses like Stettin, with 6000 troop garrisons were surrendering to just a few hundred Chasseurs-a-Cheval.

The french grognards would complain about the forced marches, but they never complained about the results.

By the time La Grande Armee reached the Russian border there were only 15,000 Prussian troops left out of 200,000 (plus garrisons) and under General Lestocq (sp?) they were penned up in the last Prussian fortress of Konigsburg.

From there, the Prussians were able to put up a fight by linking up with the Russian armies, but in Iraq, Syria is no Russia and Assad is no Czar Alexander.

5/27/2005 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger Chrees said...

Add to Wretchard's and Doug's points that the enemy is continually being identified as non-Iraqi combatants ("monitoring all foreigners and 'going into every hotel, every restaurant and every street and take to prison every Arab who does not have authorisation to be here'").

See also Syria's recent claims of stopping people at the border (so they claim they are able to stop the flow, but they have chosen NOT to for 2 years...hmmmm... not exactly the admission I think they were aiming for).

By allowing less toothpaste back into the tube, the sooner it can be corraled or eliminated.

5/27/2005 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger M. Simon said...

The #1 force multiplier we have is secure communications networks.

They are open to at minimum to traffic analysis.

It is also quite possible that there are means including decryption to decode messages. Not to mention capture of current dictionaries (human and written) of code signals. Allowing at least the understanding of old messages to get a better organizational picture.

The picture looks to me like:

Keep minimal pressure on while building up forces. Once the forces are sufficiently built take insurgent strongholds by assisting the locals and leaving the locals behind to garrison the taken areas.

It is no wonder that the insurgents put so much effort into attacking soldiers and police when they were massed for entry into the services, during training, and once trained.

5/27/2005 09:39:00 AM  
Blogger M. Simon said...

By "they are open..." I meant the jihadis.

5/27/2005 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger Dr. Sanity said...

Just think how fortunate we are! We get Wretchard's intelligent analysis of what is going on militarily, while many on a different side of the political spectrum listen to such "military experts" like Juan Cole (here's an example of his analysis: Why the US is screwed in Iraq). I am often struck by how much wishful thinking (always to the detriment of the U.S.) is infused into the analyses of many in the MSM.

5/27/2005 09:56:00 AM  
Blogger doolz said...

Scott Peterson is actually quite a good reporter. I recommend his book 'Me Against My Brother', which is about civil war and genocide in Somalia, Rwanda and Sudan during the 90's.

5/27/2005 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger TallDave said...

Just seeing "Juan Cole" and "military expert" in the same sentence makes me giggle. Or, for that matter, "Juan Cole" and "Mideast expert."

Here's a Juan Cole column generator:

[any US action] has been a disaster. [any US leader] doesn't understand the Mideast and is totally incompetent. [any US enemy] has enormous advantages and has been far more successful than anyone imagined due to the US military not understanding the Mideast culture [unstated: they should have asked me].

Repeat above for several paragraphs.

5/27/2005 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger TallDave said...

Doug,

Re #3: Our forces actually get stronger as more Iraqis join and become better trained.

5/27/2005 11:14:00 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Davis said...

How about "Juan Cole" and "proctology expert"?

5/27/2005 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Whoa! Thanks to all for great posts. Nice, positive thinking. I'm only here for the edification. Thx.

5/27/2005 04:18:00 PM  
Blogger ledger said...

Good one TallDave.

Here's a Juan Cole column generator:

[any US action] has been a disaster. [any US leader] doesn't understand the Mideast and is totally incompetent...


To add insult to injury, just remember, "experts" like Juan Cole don't come cheap.

5/27/2005 04:29:00 PM  
Blogger PresbyPoet said...

It is crucial to keep on the pressure. Patton in France, if he had been supplied, could have driven into Germany, and changed the course of history. In the Pacific, if we hadn't deflected our advance after the turkey shoot, but gone straight to Iwo and Okinawa, we could have cut a year off the war.

We were lucky Hitler diverted the Panzers in 41 down to Kiev, otherwise Moscow falls in August, and the Russians lose the war.

I wonder if the MSM is cooking up some atrocity stories to try to divert us from attacking, since if the Sunni join the political game, Syria cuts off its support of the jihad, and we are able to focus our attention in offensive operations, we win.

We just need to remember that this is just the bottom of the 4th, there is a lot of game left to be played. One major wild card is Nukes, both in America and in Iran.

5/27/2005 07:51:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Iraq of Iraqis, by Iraqis and for Iraqis should have been our policy from the get go. It has been a tough slog to get these fellows up to speed.
Soon enough we can withdraw from policing actions and leave those to the indigs. Our Combat Power will chase down the remnents of their Command Structure until they cease to exist as an active military group. Bloody politics may continue for another year or so but the "Insurgency" will be broken.

5/28/2005 08:21:00 PM  
Blogger Eggplant said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3/01/2006 07:24:00 PM  

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