The Raiders Versus the Intimidators
Coalition troops raided 82 targets associated with the manufacture of car bombs (VBIEDs) according to CENTCOM. "We wanted to put pressure on the entire network at one time" said Colonel Steve Townsend, Commander of 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.
Coalition Forces also found or captured many weapons caches to include two aircraft bombs, one 500-lb MK-82 bomb, 50 155mm artillery shells, one complete 82mm mortar system with over 100 rounds, four 122mm rockets, one DSHKA heavy machine gun, six rocket propelled grenades, two RPK light machine guns, 27 AK-47 assault rifles, five bolt action rifles, two shotguns, six pistols and numerous ammunition and other bomb making materials.
The news snippet above illustrates how asymmmetric warfare results in the two opposing sides pursuing qualitatively different approaches on the same battlefield. One of the main tactics employed by the Coalition against insurgents cells has been the targeted raid. Although sometimes news coverage gives the impression that Coalition forces simply drive around aimlessly waiting to be shot at, in reality they descend from seemingly out of nowhere in order to strike enemy cells in their safe houses and bases based on specific intelligence. Kimberly Kagan in her comprehensive Iraq Report mentions raiding no less than 26 times throughout the document. Here are some examples from her report.
- In January, units inside of Baghdad conducted a variety of patrols and raids to disrupt insurgent activity and stabilize Iraq’s capital city, but these were not part of Operation Enforcing the Law, the Baghdad Security Plan begun on February 13.
- Some raids, like the fight along Haifa Street in the Karkh neighborhood of Baghdad, were reactions to requests by Iraqi Security Forces who could not handle the violence in their areas of operation without American help.
- And those from a third U.S. Brigade Combat Team, partnered with an Iraqi Brigade, conducted raids and seized a variety of weapons and munitions.
- A series of raids from January 6-8 targeted al Qaeda operatives in Tarmiyah, located on the Tigris River – and a major highway to Baghdad – near the junction of Salah-ad-Din, Baghdad, and Diyala provinces.
- In January, General Casey relied on targeted raids throughout the theater, supplemented by intermittent patrols of urban territory.
- Beyond the capital, such targeted raids occurred in Tarmiya (series of raids, January 6-8); Risalah (January 14); Balad (January 12); al-Haswah (January 13); near Samarra (week of January 13); Jazeera (outside Ramadi, January 17); Falluja, Tikrit, North Karmah and the vicinity of eastern Balad (January 21, apparently coordinated).
Nor is raiding simply an episodic, reactive activity against targets of opportunity. Sometimes they are put together like a flurry of punches in pursuit of a larger strategic objective:
But some of these raids are actually part of larger operations (although it is not always immediately apparent from media coverage or press releases when this is the case). MNF-I reported a raid outside of Balad Ruz on January 11. This raid was not a single incident, but was one part of a well-planned, ten-day clearing operation involving 1,000 U.S. and Iraqi soldiers.
Sometimes raid are conducted to gather intelligence. One of the sad facts of warfare is that information can often be obtained only through contact with the enemy, and not by clinical or standoff methods alone. In this case, the raiding not only identified the enemy's patterns of operation, it actually spread disinformation through their ranks and made set them up for heavy strike. The raids came north to south and after the enemy had moved far enough south and concentrated itself into what it thought was a strong position, the hammer fell under the name Operation Turki Bowl.
The 3rd BCT, 1st Cavalry Division conducted deliberate, small-scale raids and air assaults (the movement of infantry soldiers into combat by helicopter) during the next six weeks in order to establish and identify patterns of enemy behavior. The enemy became predictable by moving south whenever it was attacked from the north. These raids also drove the enemy into what it thought was a safe-haven or good defensive position
What the Raiders are short on is presence. Presence on the other hand, is the enemy's strong suit: presence in the form of armed men and psychological presence in the form of continuous terror attacks. When the Americans come out of the night they are all-powerful. It is in the vacuum that follows that the enemy makes his countermove. Kagan makes this point explicitly in her report:
Targeted raids do not work well in dense urban areas where an active insurgency exists. Intermittent patrolling allows insurgents quickly to move into neighborhoods when patrols are absent. The Haifa Street battles show how quickly insurgents can move into a security vacuum in a Baghdad neighborhood if forces are not present constantly. The insurgents returned less than two weeks after a fierce battle with American forces that lasted for eleven hours. ... it is difficult to see any path by which targeted raids and strikes would end the insurgency without an area security plan.
A successful terrorist campaign is the result of continuous and chronic intimidation. During their campaign against the French in Algeria, the FLN killed twenty times as many Algerians as Frenchmen. It is the "interior violence", not the "exterior violence" that is decisive. In some sense it is strategically irrelevant how few Americans the insurgents can kill, because for so long as they can kill lots and lots of Iraqis, they will be "winning". (So remember, ladies and gentlemen of the Left that when you root for the insurgents this is what in fact you are cheering for.) In order to fight terrorism, it is literally necessary to make the population "feel safe".
Thus the fight against the Baghdad terrorist cells will ultimately triumph only if enough Iraqi forces can be deployed to create presence and if the Coalition can "put pressure on the entire network at one time" as Colonel Steve Townsend said. Or at least, that's one way of thinking about it.