In Plain View
More on Operation Swarmer.
From the AP:
Troops rounded up dozens more suspected insurgents today, including the alleged killers of an Iraqi television journalist. ... Also, police there say they have captured a Sunni extremist who confessed to leading a gang that killed hundreds of Shiites in recent months.
Washington Post, Fighting Smarter in Iraq
Three years on, the U.S. military is finally becoming adept at fighting a counterinsurgency war in Iraq. Sadly, these are precisely the skills that should have been mastered before America launched its invasion in March 2003. It may prove one of the costliest lessons in the history of modern warfare.
I had a chance to see the new counterinsurgency doctrine in practice here this week. U.S. troops are handing off to the Iraqi army a growing share of the security burden. As the Iraqis step up, the Americans are stepping back into a training and advisory role. This is the way it should have happened from the beginning.
The U.S. military said on Friday a joint U.S.-Iraqi offensive marked a change in the fight against guerillas, showing Iraq's army was becoming increasingly effective and taking more control. U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq hinge on the capability of the Iraqi army, disbanded by U.S. authorities in 2003 and now being rapidly rebuilt, in the face of a raging insurgency and a surge in sectarian killings.
In what was clearly a combing operation using cordon-and-search tactics in a patch of remote desert terrain with scattered farms and homesteads, military spokesmen said the advancing forces uncovered six caches containing arms, explosives and other insurgent material. They detained 48 people, of whom 17 were freed without delay. Officials said they did not believe they had captured any significant insurgent leaders. "Any leaders there must have seen the forces coming, and escaped," said one senior Iraqi security source.
The US is not "finally becoming adept" at fighting in Iraq so much as reaping the result of a two pronged strategy. First, building up indigenous and de-Baathized forces (with a large Shi'ite and Kurdish component) and second, destroying the infrastructure of the insurgency. The extent of the Iraqi troop buildup can be seen in the CENTCOM 2006 posture statement.
The most significant change in terms of troop levels in 2005 was the number of trained and equipped Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). In January 2005, there were 127,000 total Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior security forces, or 78 battalions. About a year later, there were approximately 231,000 combined security forces constituting more than 160 battalions. More important, these increasingly capable Iraqi forces are assuming greater responsibility for combating the insurgency. ...
This past year, U.S. and Coalition forces in Iraq focused on: training, building, and conducting operations with capable Iraqi security forces; providing the shield behind which political and economic progress can continue and legitimate government institutions can form and take root; and killing and capturing terrorists and neutralizing the insurgency.
The campaign contained a significant political component as well. Again, from the CENTCOM 2006 posture statement.
The political component is decisive. ... The political accomplishments of the Iraqi people during 2005 were remarkable. Iraqi citizens, by the millions, braved threats of violence to vote for an interim government in January 2005. These elected representatives formed an interim government and ministries, and crafted a constitution, which was approved by the Iraqi people in a national referendum. Then in December over 10 million Iraqis voted again to elect a permanent government. All of these political milestones were set out in the Transitional Administrative Law, demonstrating that the rule of law is beginning to take hold in Iraq. When compared to our own political experience in forming a new republic, Iraq’s political progress in 2005 is impressive.
Just how impressive the bumbling, unsophisticated effort in Iraq is will be evident when compared to the decades-long failure to create a working Palestinian Authority, which till now has no effective and reliable security forces and only a desultory form of "government" despite the efforts of far the more legitimate, understanding and capable United Nations and the sophisticated European Union.
In retrospect three of the decisive weapons of victory in Iraq will have been the 190 military transition teams which raised the new Iraqi Army, the Transitional Administrative Law which made a new coalition government possible, and the US Armed Forces itself, which held up the shield behind which the training and political components could take shape. It now seems fairly clear that many of the 'far better' strategies which were suggested in 2004 and 2005 in place of CENTCOM's may not have been as good as they were made out to be. There were many calls for more American troops on the ground, up to 400,000 men. There were even calls for a return to the draft to rescue a "broken army". It had been suggested that it was a "mistake" to fire the old Saddamite Army, which alone could maintain control, or so it was said. In the end, CENTCOM's strategy did not prove so amateurish after all. If the public has ever heard of the MTTs, the political transition process or the River War it will not be the result of their concealment. These three decisive weapons were lying in plain view from the end 2004 onwards though their significance had not been noted -- their existence hardly even acknowledged -- by the Press even until now. Ironically, this may have contributed to overall success. The enemy in reading the leading newspapers of the West remained ignorant of the doom descending upon their heads, confirmed in their eventual victory even as catastrophe overwhelmed them. Thank you MSM.