Monday, September 17, 2007

The Surge Goes South

Of all the threats to Iran, this may be the most dangerous. Bill Roggio reports:

In southern Baghdad province, the establishment of the Concerned Citizens, also referred to as Iraqi Police Volunteers, began to take hold in late spring. Initiated by tribal connections from Anbar province, the movement mimicked the rise of the Anbar Salvation Council in some respects, but differed in many ways. This bottom up process of local reconciliation consists of both Sunni and Shia tribes wishing to restore a measure of peace to the war torn regions south of Baghdad.

The establishment of Concerned Citizens cells has been helped along by a Coalition Cell, learning to do it the only possible way: on the job.

The cell is tasked with devising strategies to get the local communities to provide for their security and become part of the reconciliation process, then to see these strategies through at the tactical level. The cell ... is comprised of three officers [who] ... work long hours putting together the pieces of a complex puzzle, which includes learning the tribal relationships and influential sheikhs, demarking the geographic and sectarian boundaries.

The reconciliation cell also learned its craft on the job. ... This was required, as while similarities existed between the movement in Anbar and the uprising against al Qaeda in southern Baghdad and northern Babil provinces, the unique nature of the region southwest of Baghdad had its own solutions.

The process of empowering local groups is fraught with risk. Even the US military felt uneasy about dealing with armed groups outside the structure of the regular Iraqi armed forces. Roggio says that the coalition cells categorically do not arm or provide ammunition to these groups; they simply redirect them, pointing the guns from one direction to another.

... the process of establishing the Concerned Citizens groups unfolded, there was resistance among the military officers. Many were skeptical about the effectiveness of these groups, their ability to provide security, and the inherent dangers in establishing armed groups outside the purview of the Iraqi Security Forces. “Now 99.9 percent of the officers are on board,” Waldron said. ...

Arming these groups is a “red line,” Waldron stated. “People think we are arming Sunnis; that is not true.” ... “These guys have all the weapons they need, we’re just having them point them in the right direction,” against al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army.

TE Lawrence would have understood. He would also have understood how quickly guns pointed away can turn 180 degrees around. But given that the guns were initially pointed at Americans to start with, pointing them against al-Qaeda and the Mahdi Army is for the moment an improvment.

A large part of the new-found influence over militias comes from money. "With over 15,000 volunteers and growing being paid an average of 10 dollars a day – less than is being paid an Iraqi soldier or policeman – the US is paying over 150,000 dollars a day for the local security forces." This is not as radical as it sounds. Co-opting local militias is a time-honored practice in counterinsurgency. The problem normally comes afterwards, after the main enemy is defeated and the weapons must be collected to lessen the danger of criminality.

The inability of the West to provide enough troops over an extended period probably means that additional forces to fight al-Qaeda and Iranian-sponsored forces will come from locals. Bing and Owen West, writing in Slate in May, 2007 proposed that the US shift to an "adviser" model in which Americans "advise, coach, teach and mentor" instead of directly fighting. Advising has long been under way co-existing with direct US combat operations. The cell Bill Roggio describes is performing a function which used to be the province of Special Forces. West had this to say in May:

Today, every Iraqi army and police unit has between 10 and 25 advisers, called "transition teams," living with them. While some advisers perform as drill instructors for recruits and others work with Iraqi staffs behind barriers of American concrete, the majority do their job by setting the example outside the wire in combat. Many battalion advisers accompany Iraqi patrols twice a day, setting a much higher operational tempo than most American units.

The difference here is that Americans are not only "advising" Iraqi Army units, they are advising militias. I expect the New York Times to soon generate ominious news stories about how the organizing the locals is creating unknown dangers. In truth, organizing locals always creates unknown dangers, but not in these least -- and this is fundamental -- to the enemy. If the Iranian-supported Badr Brigades and Madhi Army are run out on a rail from Southern Iraq in the same way al-Qaeda has been given the bum's rush from Anbar it has the potential to shake the regime in Teheran to the core. It will indicate that the Americans have found a social weapon, which combined with US firepower and money, poses a significant threat to the hitherto-successful Iranian model of terrorist subversion.

It is a dangerous weapon; but all powerful weapons are dangerous. The US must learn how to remain in control. But if Americans become increasingly adept at organizing locals around grievances and directing their anger against the terror bosses it will have all the impact of the arrival of fast carrier task forces in the Pacific. They will have created a combined arms weapon which integrates social agitation with already existing high-technology firepower and blazingly fast kinetic combat power. If the US can pull it off, and I were the Ayatollah Khameini, I would be looking to surrender.


Blogger Unknown said...

The success of local groups are serving as force multipliers. Success is breeding success because we have found a formula that works and the timing is right. The locals have tasted what al Qaeda and JAM are serving and they are ready to vomit.

9/17/2007 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

This has the potential to cascade very quickly.

9/17/2007 05:54:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

5,700 Troops Home for Christmass

30,000 Home for the 4th July

It already has worked.
Basra is a success
Anbar is a success

Jonnny comes marching Home
hoorah! hoorah!

Stay the Course

9/17/2007 06:02:00 PM  
Blogger Teresita said...

DR: It already has worked.
Basra is a success
Anbar is a success

Basra is in the hands of warring Shia militias. Anbar is in the hands of warring Sunni militias. Baghdad is in the hands of warring Shia and Sunni militias. As soon as one side or the other gets the upper hand in Baghdad it too can be a "success" like Basra and Anbar.

9/17/2007 06:27:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

With 30,000 returning Veterans, just think of the 4th of July Parades and Celebrations!!!

We've WON!!!

5,700 Troops Home for Christmass

30,000 for the 4th of July!!!

General Simmions says Basra is a success, he is there, you are not, Ms T. The Brits are happy, they turned the Basra Palace over to stand up Iraqis, on time.

Iraq is in the hands of the Iraqi.
Soveriegn in their own land, success!!

When Johnny comes marching home again,
Hurrah! Hurrah!
We'll give him a hearty welcome then
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The men will cheer and the boys will shout
The ladies they will all turn out
And we'll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home.

The old church bell will peal with joy
Hurrah! Hurrah!
To welcome home our darling boy,
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The village lads and lassies say
With roses they will strew the way,
And we'll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home.

Get ready for the Jubilee,
Hurrah! Hurrah!
We'll give the hero three times three,
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The laurel wreath is ready now
To place upon his loyal brow
And we'll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home.

Let love and friendship on that day,
Hurrah, hurrah!
Their choicest pleasures then display,
Hurrah, hurrah!
And let each one perform some part,
To fill with joy the warrior's heart,
And we'll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home

And we'll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home

Now-a-days fellas, don't ask, don't tell

9/17/2007 06:38:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

The final departure to coincide with General Jone's estimate of Iraqi capacity to succeed.

In 18 to 24 months.

All the pieces fit together, like a swiss watch.

The Plan is in motion

Stay the Course!!

9/17/2007 06:39:00 PM  
Blogger buck smith said...

how quickly guns pointed away can turn 180 degrees around.

W. you are a smart guy, but for my part, I don't see what moves AQI or the Iranians have that would make those gun turn back around.

9/17/2007 07:08:00 PM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

Their thoughts were at ease only in extremes. They inhabited superlatives by choice. Sometimes inconsistents seemed to possess them at once in joint sway; but they never compromised: they pursued the logic of several incompatible opinions to absurd ends, without perceiving the incongruity. With cool head and tranquil judgement, imperturbably unconscious of the flight, they oscillated from asymptote to asymptote.

T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom

9/17/2007 07:39:00 PM  
Blogger watimebeing said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9/18/2007 12:41:00 AM  
Blogger watimebeing said...

There is one other component to the picture as yet unseen. What will the understanding be when refugee populations return? Having already rejected Al Qaeda and Mahdi violent rule, will they accept or grasp the new social dynamic? While tribal in design, the new structure is very much representative of the experiences of those who stayed.

If the integration of refugee populations, in relative calm, can be achieved without rekindling what has been rejected, then I have to agree, for Iran the game is over.

Until then, Al Q and the Shi'ah militias are still a potent threat as far as assassinations and other despicable acts of resort, so I will not plan to join in that parade until it smells less like Lebanon.

It is a good thing we have going, and it is proving a formidable force. But then we all knew that Freedom and self determination are powerful and addictive...,didn't we?

9/18/2007 12:50:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Totten begs to disagree with your description of Anbar, Ms. T, and he is there!
Anbar Awakens Part II: Hell is Over

Michael Totten

9/18/2007 04:52:00 AM  
Blogger LarryD said...

Buck smith, that danger will be when AQI and the Iranians are driven away. We have until then to build some cohesion among the Iraqis.

The the Iraqi army is now both effective and integrated (originally they where mostly Kurds) give me considerable hope.

9/18/2007 06:09:00 AM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

Once Iraqis turn on their foreign patrons (Syria, Saudi, AQI, Iran) they have to come together as Iraqis to kick them out and keep them out. No one community can do it alone and without US help. These are the forces pushing the Iraqis together and the US toward ultimate success.

9/18/2007 07:40:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"It is a dangerous weapon; but all powerful weapons are dangerous. The US must learn how to remain in control."

There is no way to maintain control in such a situation. You must align interests and incentives, and then let the system unfold.

The best way I know of doing this is to make sure that the armed groups of "Concerned Citizens" includes the women and grand-fathers. They have the proper "long term" point of view necessary to build a successful society.

9/18/2007 07:52:00 AM  
Blogger Boghie said...

The Iranians will soon join desert rat in singing 'When Jonney (Mohammad) Comes Marching Home'...

Ah, the elation the Mullahs will feel when their well trained and well financed terrorists get to spend some quality time in Qom or Tehran. The joy. The pride. The free time these chaps will have to live a pius life...

Parades and jobs to welcome their heros.

Certainly they will put down their arms to wrap their arms around their brethren!!!

Yuk, yuk...

Tehran may soon become the Beirut of the Persian Empire!!!

9/18/2007 03:28:00 PM  

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