Thursday, March 01, 2007

Background to the Surge

Kimberly Kagan, who taught history at West Point, gathers the disparate "open source" (i.e. news stories) to describe the battle for Baghdad leading up to the Surge and suggesting what lies beyond.


The United States does not have enough forces in Iraq to defeat the insurgency through raids and strikes. These types of military operations cannot eliminate the entire network of terrorists or weapons caches faster than they regenerate. ... Eliminating large weapons caches and known insurgent strongholds in the Baghdad beltway helped set the conditions for the Baghdad Security Plan to unfold more safely. But it is difficult to see any path by which targeted raids and strikes would end the insurgency without an area security plan.

Commentary

I hope to add more comments after reading this long and very worthwhile article more carefully. But just on first impressions, the narrative shows the battle on the ground does have a shape. The sheer scale of the engagements, the size of caches and the intensity of the enemy effort is a clear indication that the US is not fighting ghosts, but a highly organized and well-funded enemy force. Far from being an effort which Iran and al-Qaeda can engage in effortlessly, the intensity of the action and the resources involved imply that it is taking its toll of them too, not only in materiel but in creating enmities which will take a long time to resolve.

However, as matters stand, the regional enemies may be able to feed the fight better than the US. They may lose every engagement, but their ability to generate forces even in the face of heavy casualties gives them hope they will retain possession of the battlefield by sheer persistence. On the face of it, the "area security plan" Kagan refers to can only be provided by an Iraqi Army. The military rationale for building an Iraqi state is therefore ultimately a requirement for warm bodies on a scale that the US could never and will probably never be able to provide.

17 Comments:

Blogger Tom_Holsinger said...

The area security plan is simple, but only the Iraqis can implement it - get rid of the Sunni Arabs. This cannot be done at the moment as we have temporarily suppressed the Shiite militias who until now had been driving the Sunni Arabs out.

3/01/2007 08:40:00 PM  
Blogger Red A said...

The Iranians and Syrians do not have an elected opposition or need to rule about poll numbers.

Well, perhaps the Iranians do slightly.

I suggest we could find ways to make it more costly for them.

3/01/2007 10:20:00 PM  
Blogger dla said...

Well duh Ralph!

It doesn't require a degree in Nuclear Rocket Science to realize that the Iraqi people have to see that the hand holding the sword is Iraqi - not American. That's why the Baghdad subburbs haven't been "Fallujahed".

The impact of Fallujah was mixed - we clearly demonstrated that we can and will kick butt, but in doing so we started to rub salt in the wounded pride of Iraqi's.

3/01/2007 10:32:00 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Davis said...

They may lose every engagement, but their ability to generate forces even in the face of heavy casualties gives them hope they will retain possession of the battlefield by sheer persistence.

This is possible. But more likely is that the U. S. persists in maintaining sufficient presence that neither side can achieve victory. This could last for years, especially if the Iraqis can start carrying a fair amount of the burden. rah5212At some point the enemy will become sufficiently frustrated that it will mount an attack that re-ignites the ire of the American people and the gloves come off.

3/02/2007 07:26:00 AM  
Blogger Sardonic said...

Before you lock on to the idea that the Sunni are the real problem, you should read James Wasserman's "The Templars and the Assassins: The Militia of Heaven", in particular the Appendix One on "The Nine Degrees of Wisdom" which outlines the Shia methodology of warfare. If that does not give you pause then I'm afraid nothing will.

3/02/2007 08:10:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 03/02/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

3/02/2007 08:17:00 AM  
Blogger Roderick said...

If the enemy's ability to resupply both weapons and bodies is their main means of achieving "victory,", therein lies the solution for us.

I have found our unwillingness to attack and "starve" the sources of men and materiel on a major scale (in Syria and Iran) to be frustrating and baffling. We seem too willing to let them keep pouring in, and then dealing with them on Iraqi soil only. THAT has to change.

3/02/2007 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

"THAT has to change"

It has been that way for coming on four years now.
At some point in time the competency or the goals of those in charge comes into question, does it not, roderick?

3/02/2007 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...

THAT has to change.

According to Brig. Gen. John Custer, the internet is the principal recruitment device for al-Qaeda.

What the upcoming 60 Minutes interview on March 4 shows is that the central front in the war against al-Qaeda is in neither Iraq nor Afghanistan but in cyberspace.

How would you bell that cat?

3/02/2007 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger ghoullio said...

How would you bell that cat?

simple. a massive disinformation network.

3/02/2007 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Reocon said...

Wretchard said . . . The sheer scale of the engagements, the size of caches and the intensity of the enemy effort is a clear indication that the US is not fighting ghosts, but a highly organized and well-funded enemy force.

Enemy force? I believe that should be plural. There are at least four separate wars in Iraq and our incompetent leadership can not articulate a separate peace for any one of them.

Sardonic said...
Before you lock on to the idea that the Sunni are the real problem, you should read James Wasserman's "The Templars and the Assassins: The Militia of Heaven", in particular the Appendix One on "The Nine Degrees of Wisdom" which outlines the Shia methodology of warfare.

Excellent observation Sardonic, which begs the eternal question: what are we getting out of fighting on behalf of our enemies? Why waste our blood and treasure on propping up a Shiite Islamist gov't that barely hides its true goals of Islamic Revolution?

Roderick said...
If the enemy's ability to resupply both weapons and bodies is their main means of achieving "victory,", therein lies the solution for us.

I have found our unwillingness to attack and "starve" the sources of men and materiel on a major scale (in Syria and Iran) to be frustrating and baffling.


Perhaps because that would hardly "starve" the multiple Islamic insurgencies within Iraq. Military resources, chemicals and bomb components are flowing in through Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey as well. Securing Iraq's borders will demand far more troops than deployed by this measely surge.

3/02/2007 01:12:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Yusuf has spiritual comeback

At ease: Cat Stevens, lately known as Yusuf Islam, gave a tentative performance but joked with the Porchester Hall crowd

As well as the 28 years since his last concert, fans who had won tickets for this intimate show also had to queue for an hour before finally being allowed inside last night.
Then they discovered that alcohol was not permitted during the performance.

3/02/2007 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Reocon,

The enemy can form coalitions too, just as the allied forces in Iraq consist of several nations, the US, Britain and Australia being the most prominent. You might also say there are several invasions, because Kagan clearly documents the entry of al-Qaeda and the entry of Iran into the fray from the outside, not to mention the forces on the inside.

But that's not new is it, Saddam fought a war with the Iranians in the last years of the 20th century and al-Qaeda type forces were also a threat to him.

3/02/2007 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

One way to think about what is happening to Iraq is to imagine a breach in the pressure hull of a submarine at depth. The old regime was surrounded, as so many other regimes in the Middle East are surrounded, by immense external pressures and packed with internal volatility. When the US smashed Saddam, the surrounding sea rushed in and the task of salvaging the boat as it springs leaks from every corner is what we have been watching since.

Rami Khouri, writing in the Lebanese Daily Star describes what a disturbance was caused by the fall of Saddam. He calls it the Great Arab Unraveling.

Do not pity or jeer Washington alone, for every single player in this tale - the United States, Hizbullah, the Lebanese government, Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia - wriggles uncomfortably in the mess they collectively created through their shortsighted policies of recent years. I suspect this mirrors something much bigger: We are in the midst of a potentially historic moment when the modern Arab state order that was created by the Europeans in circa 1920 has started to break down, in what we might perhaps call the Great Arab Unraveling.

Shattered Iraq is the immediate driver of this possible dissolution and reconfiguration of an Arab state system that had held together rather well for nearly four generations. It is only the most dramatic case of an Arab country that wrestles with its own coherence, legitimacy, and viability. Lebanon and Palestine have struggled with their statehood for half a century; Somalia has quietly dropped out of this game; Kuwait vanished in 1990 and quickly reappeared; Yemen split, reunited, split, fought a war, and reunited; Sudan spins like a centrifuge, with national and tribal forces pushing away from a centralized state; Morocco and the Western Sahara dance gingerly around their logical association; and internal tensions plague other Arab countries to varying degrees.

A learned British friend reminded me this week of the mixed legacy of countries manufactured by Europe at the Paris peace conference after World War I: Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and Iraq. Not an inspiring record. The Anglo-American war to change the Iraqi regime has triggered wider regional tensions, unleashing powerful and often antagonistic forces of ethnic, religious and tribal identities, most of which have formed their own militias. All militias thrive on Arab, Iranian, or Western support. It is no surprise that Washington now may be indirectly assisting Sunni fundamentalist radicals of the ilk who attacked the US in recent years. America, welcome to the Middle East.

3/02/2007 04:47:00 PM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

THAT has to change.

The only way this is going to happen is when the Iraqis do it. "We stand down, when they stand up" does not mean that the Iraqis will do targeted raids and strikes copying the American plan. The day when the Iraqis stand up will be the day they threaten to advance on Damascus, Riyadh or Tehran.

3/03/2007 01:58:00 AM  
Blogger Boghie said...

Another way of thinking...

Well financed men and materiel of various enemy forces have coalesced in Baghdad. Iran and Syria are using a measurable portion of their limited resources to build and maintain that force.

Wasn't one of the major problems we (Iraqi military and Coalition forces) faces is the fact that the enemy had no center - no point that could be attacked.

Apparently, much of the enemy force structure and supply base is now 'fixed' in place.

Enjoy Sweeps Month!!!

3/03/2007 07:40:00 AM  
Blogger Reocon said...

wretchard said...

The enemy can form coalitions too, just as the allied forces in Iraq consist of several nations, the US, Britain and Australia being the most prominent.

An observation which highlights the need to move beyond a singular identification of "the enemy" in favor a specificity. A good part of the reason for the Bush administration's rapidly shifting priorities is its uncertainty as to which branch of Islam composes the greater threat. Take for example:

Wretchard quoted . . .
All militias thrive on Arab, Iranian, or Western support. It is no surprise that Washington now may be indirectly assisting Sunni fundamentalist radicals of the ilk who attacked the US in recent years. America, welcome to the Middle East.

Wow. Wasn't this the sort of politics that got us to the present disaster? If the above quote was posted on the Belmont Club two years ago, the howls of outrage would've gone on for whole yards of commentary. Back then the "Belmot Consensus" on democracy's potential yet reigned, and the Sunni insurgents and the larger movement that funded them throughout the Muslim world were worse than the Nazis. The idea that the Bush administration would now be funding Sunni Islamists as a hedge to our lovely Shiite allies would've been regarded as treasonous. I'm not hearing alot of indignation, perhaps owing to the sullen drop of the Wilsonian fever that so gripped the conservative movement.

3/03/2007 08:15:00 AM  

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