The Baghdad Security Plan
The attacks in the Baghdad district of Jihad, in which a number of civilians were said to be killed by Shi'ite death squads were the subject of commentary by Iraq the Model. Later, at a lengthy press conference, MNF-Iraq spokesman MG William Caldwell spent most of his time discussing the subject of whether or not the Iraqi government was winning the Battle of Baghdad. Mohammed at Iraq the Model thinks that the government isn't winning the fight.
Some time ago we pointed out the poor intelligence capabilities of the government compared to that of the militants and it looks like the current security operation did not deal seriously with this defect, on the contrary the gap seems to be even growing giving advantage to the militias and insurgents. Again I feel I must point out that security operation of the government is still not doing much to deal with the escalating violence. Personally I was for a plan based on securing one piece of territory at a time instead of attempting to secure the entire capital at once (see our earlier post) and that's because I believe the government does not possess enough tools to cover Baghdad in its entirety. The concept of power concentration seems a reliable way that can be applied in limited areas effectively and once a given area is secure that power could move to secure adjacent areas. I still think that clearing Baghdad should start from the center-out, not the other way around. ...
Baghdad is the key to Iraq, and Iraq is the key to the Middle East, and from this fact this battle draws its significance.
And it is absolutely necessary, Mohammed thinks, for the government to win in Baghdad. "Baghdad is the key to Iraq, and Iraq is the key to the Middle East, and from this fact this battle draws its significance." A lot of the subtext surrounding the Jihad incident involves the Madhi Army. Mohammed quotes another Iraqi blogger to point out how intertwined the problem of the Madhi is with it's mirror threat, the Sunni insurgency.
There will be no excuse for the Mehdi army to exist if terror groups ceased to exist and there will be no excuse for the terrorists to exist when the Sadr gangs and rats of Badr drop their weapons. one depends on the other... Whenever the government tries to disarm the militias, the terrorists would come to attack at the strongholds of the militias to give them reason to exist and whenever the government tries to attack terrorist strongholds the militias would take to the streets to distract the government and drag its forces into side battles…
At a briefing and Q&A lasting nearly an hour on July 10, MG William Caldwell returned repeatedly to the subject of the Battle for Baghdad. While the ostensible subject of the briefing was the transfer to Iraqi control of the province of Muthanna, described in a press conference a few days ago, the subsquent questions from the press dealt almost exclusively with Baghdad. However, the Caldwell's recitation of the process through which Muthanna was transferred provided essential background to the subsequent discussion because it clearly illustrated where things were going. Caldwell punctuated nearly every other sentence with reference to "the Prime Minister", "the Council of Ministers" and other local structures which the Multinational Force was manifestly determined to work through.
When the questioning turned to Baghdad, the members of the press focused upon two things: the first was to elicit some reaction from Caldwell as to whether the Madhi Army was involved; and second to get some indication as to whether Caldwell believed elements of the Iraqi Army were complicit in militia raid on a Sunni neighborhood. Caldwell weighed every word carefully. What follows is my impression of what was conveyed. The first bit of information was that Coalition Forces could could not find any more than 14 or 15 dead; a much smaller number than reported in the papers. The second was a tacit admission that Coalition Forces had been late to the scene because they responded only when asked by their Iraqi counterparts, which raised the question of how good or impaerial those counterparts were. Third, there had been a meeting with Maliki on the night before the press conference during which the Prime Minister debated proposals to "shift around" units, relieve commanders and retrain certain troops. All of it was phrased diplomatically and vaguely, but I got the impression (and I urge readers to listen to the video conference themselves) that Maliki wasn't going to take this lying down. The fourth item, was that although Caldwell could not be baited into naming the Madhi Army as the perpetrator of the massacre, his language by no means excluded them; and he did nothing to discourage the impression that they were involved. However, his obstinate refusal to name Sadr or the Madhi Army suggests (to me) that the subject remains a political Red Line which he would not lightly cross.
Despite that, Caldwell seemed relatively optimistic that things were going well, even in Baghdad. However, his idea of progress has to be qualified: it had to do with satisfaction that the Iraqi forces were beginning to function at a level they could not attain only some weeks ago. He also seemed gratified that top Iraqi leadership was attempting to come to grips with the problem rather than deny or evade it. Caldwell was perfectly willing to admit that the current level of violence was unacceptable, however he emphasized that "this is going to take time".
An earlier briefer, an General from the Engineers, quite happily described all the pipelines, petroleum stations, generating plants, water purifying facilities that they'd build which I'd never heard of in the news. The soundbite which caught my attention was his claim that the hours of electricity in Baghdad had risen to significantly more than in weeks past and that he expected a far bigger improvement before the end of summer. For some commanders, improvements in training, logistics, coordination and the knowledge of plans to which they will be put constitute a hidden source of optimism which is often invisible to outsiders. However, the ultimate test of these offstage preparations is the battlefield result. Mohammed is probably correct when he says that the Battle for Baghdad will be the key campaign of the next months. "Baghdad is the key to Iraq, and Iraq is the key to the Middle East, and from this fact this battle draws its significance." And the question is not entirely whether Iraqi forces are improving, but whether they can improve fast enough to stay in control. Victory if it comes too late is not victory at all. The time element is important here and I have no way of even guessing whether the Iraqi government will win the race.
My own reading between the lines is that Maliki wants to take down Sadr, but is looking for a way to do it without completely shattering his government. Moreover, he is discovering that it is one thing to have thousands of men in uniform and quite another to get them to follow the chain of command. In that regard it is useful to return to the briefing on Muthanna, because it provides clues as to what he is trying to achieve. My own guess is that Maliki is getting ready for a showdown in the classic manner: by getting ready. The program to transition Muthanna and other provinces, as hinted by Caldwell, is in one sense an economy of force measure which will allow redeployment of more forces to Baghdad.
Q This is Kristin Roberts with Reuters. Now that you've transferred authority over to the Iraqis in that one province, will you be able to move coalition forces into other provinces and reduce the numbers there in Muthanna?
GEN. CICHOWSKI: Well, Kristin, let me correct something here just quickly. We have not yet done that. We are in the very last stages. The prime minister has stated that it will happen. We know that it will happen in the very, very near future. The last final details are being worked out. As far as the moving of forces and the coalitions following it, yes, there is that opportunity, and there are about -- many plans that we have to go through on both the Iraqi side and on the coalition side.
The second leg is apparently force generation. More police: the Coalition emphasizing building up the police, which is largely behind the Iraqi Army in training and -- one suspects -- command and control.
GEN. CICHOWSKI: I certainly can tell you that it is the year of the police. We're making great strides. I know that General Dempsey was there last week and talked to that process as well as some of the lawmakers on the Hill. As in any type of police force, there are some that are better than others here, and those are the ones that we are working on. So we have been making great strides as a whole on both the police and on the Iraqi army.
Only time will tell whether Maliki will succeed.