Monday, December 17, 2007

Iraq By The Numbers: Charting Violence in Iraq

Bill Roggio puts the graphs and graphics in one place. One graphics shows the decline in "ethno-sectarian violence" between December 2006 and November 2007. I've included a graph showing US troop levels in Iraq from 2003. Comparing troop levels against the Bill Roggio's graphs the question which immediately suggests itself is what correlation the total troop levels had with the declines in violence?

The Surge is that little bit at the end of the graph above with the dotted line going up slowly.

While the public gaze was focused on total troop numbers in Iraq, it was really local superiority which mattered. For example, Fardh al-Qanoon, the Baghdad security plan, began around February of 2007. But by March, according to the graphic on "ethno-sectarian violence" the violence in Baghdad had already begun to decline. Even before total troop numbers had begun to rise much, the Coalition had already maneuvered to create dominance in the Baghdad battlefield. It was the first of "three successive, large-scale military operations in 2007" planned by Petraeus and Odierno as described by Kimberly Kagan's military summary of the Surge "How They Did It".

It was this trio of offensives which really constituted the basis for victory. The Surge, in the sense of a mere infusion of additional men, was simply a means to keep the offensive going without creating security vacuums. Petraeus and Odierno's 2007 campaigns are probably going to be called the Surge forever, though that makes about as much historical sense as calling the Breakout and Pursuit in Northern France the Red Ball Express.

If another reminder were needed of the under-described battles which the Surge undergirded, a suggestive graphic is Roggio's IED explosions incidence map. IED attacks, which are the enemy's most effective weapon, were at a near all-time high between September 2006 and July 2007 and Coalition casualties (see Iraq Coalition Casualty Count) reflect this fact. The maximum-effort IED chart is a portrait of the insurgency fighting back -- indeed, fighting for its life. It reaches nearly to it's all time high and then falls further in four months than it has taken two and a half years to attain. It's as dramatic picture of the offensives as can be depicted on a chart. And thanks to Bill Roggio for providing it.


And please don't forget about the Real Surge.


Blogger Lucky Pierre said...

By any measure, the US-led surge has been little short of a triumph. The number of American military fatalities is reduced sharply, as is the carnage of Iraqi civilians, Baghdad as a city is functioning again, oil output is above where it stood in March 2003 but at a far stronger price per barrel and, the acid test, many of those who fled to Syria and Jordan are today returning home.

12/17/2007 08:18:00 PM  
Blogger NoGenius said...

May 1, 2003 : President Bush declares 'major combat operations in Iraq have ended'.

Thank heavens the US military is not so politically motivated as they cannot evaluate this timeline and learn from their mistakes. I have always been impressed with how the military is able to appropriately walk away with "lessons learned" from a conflict.

Hopefully such declarations will not be made again until victory has been achieved, meaning a stable Democratic Iraqi government with the ability to maintain security independently.

April 2004: "... US lays siege to Fallujah'

I believe when these events are viewed in a historical context, the withdrawl from Fallujah #1 will be seen as a huge mistake that prolonged this war by several years.

12/18/2007 02:17:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...


Please, stop eating what the media is feeding you.

What Bush was claiming was the end of an invasion and beginning of an occupation. An occupation is not a war, and thus then end of major combat operations is an accurate depiction of what was taking place at the time he stood in front of that banner.

In fact, that day, Bush's speach goes as such:

"We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We are bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous."
"Our mission continues...The War on Terror continues, yet it is not endless. We do not know the day of final victory, but we have seen the turning of the tide."

The sign, construed as a symbol of the administrations unrealistic perception of the conflict, was actually representative of aircraft carrier's 10-month deployment, which came to an end that day.

What was construed in the press and what was actually said that day are two entirely different things.

12/18/2007 06:08:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

Well, let’s see, did violence in France go up or down before and after that “Surge” hat started on 6 Jun 1944? Have not seen the figures, but obviously, it went up. Violence increased ahead of Jun 1944 as well, as Allied air attacks were stepped up in France, but things really took off after the Normandy landings. The fact that no one thought – or thinks - of things in WWII France that way but thinks of Iraq that way speaks volumes.

Wretchard, I have seen no where else anyone recognizing that either that The Surge was not simply “same stuff, different day, more troops” or that the actions in the months – if not years - leading up to it consisted of what is otherwise known as “preparing the battlefield.” I have been awaiting some TV pundit – Bill Kiristal, Charles Krauthammer, Gen McInerny, etc- to bluntly blurt out “Hey! There was no Surge! There was a Plan that had stages!” But I have not seen it yet. I know not if this was simply an attempt to not admit mistakes, the results of political attacks on the Bush Administration or if it was all part of War Plan Iraq. I hope that one day we will know. But I also hope that your analysis is recognized as the revelation that it surely is.

12/18/2007 06:37:00 AM  
Blogger NoGenius said...


There error was not the sign, the speech or the media for that matter.

It was that event in the military decision making process influenced by the CIC. The error was the rapid draw down, coupled with the complete disbanding of the Iraqi Army. I suspect the draw down was ordered as an attempt to appease the anti-war side at that time. (# KIA's was a big deal then - little did they know what was to come...)

The reason why things are better again is because we actually went back to war, engaged and defeated the enemy on the battlefield, and destroyed their effectiveness as a fighting organization.

This is why I think the first Fallujah was an error. We declined to engage the enemy when we had a clear advantage. Again, politics got in the way there. I don't think we were ready to believe there was an organized enemy. And our withdrawl only served as a rallying event for them and they became event more organized. We ended up having to do it anyway a year later, and not nearly as effective as it could have been the first time.

12/18/2007 06:45:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

"(# KIA's was a big deal then - little did they know what was to come...)"

Oh, you must be talking about the few thousand lost troops. As in, less troops than we lost in many single BATTLES in WWII. Little more than we lost per MONTH at the height of Vietnam.

I always chuckle when I hear someone deplore how many troops we've lost. It honestly makes me laugh. In the day or two after 9/11 when they were centering on the idea of attacking Afghanistan, I was as flabbergasted by events as anybody else.

The only thing I could think of was that the Russians got their clocks cleaned there but good. I knew we would do what needed doing, but I tried to calculate what it might cost in terms of a body count on our side. The best my non-military background could muster was a vague "maybe 50,000 dead, maybe double or triple that if WMDs are used".

We've lost what, around 5,000 in total? In Iraq and Afghanistan COMBINED? With an all-volunteer military?

Seriously, this "war" is going FAR better than almost any other conflict in human history, given all the factors involved.

12/18/2007 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger eggplant said...

Dan said:

"Seriously, this "war" is going FAR better than almost any other conflict in human history, given all the factors involved."

Dan is correct.

Add to Dan's analysis that these islamic fascists are among the most savage enemies that we have ever fought against, e.g. nazis, communists, etc. The islamic fascists seem to think that shear evil can compensate for not being able to shoot straight or having enough backbone to stand fast in a difficult battle.

Our troops have done quite well against a difficult enemy.

What is really too bad is that we've had to deal with so much sedition at home.

Get a clue moonbats!

We can either fight this enemy in the Middle East or on the streets of New York or Los Angeles. This should be a no brainer....

Actually, I guess what's a no brainer is that moonbats don't have a clue.

12/18/2007 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger newscaper said...

I am *still* not convinced that drawing down the army was an obvious mistake.
Sure, its been painful, but I'm not sure if incrementally updating an army full of poorly trained and led men, riddled with Baathists, while perhaps less messy in the meantime, would have got us to where we are now with much of the Iraqi Army finally coming into its own.
I think the argument can be made that, going forward, the IA is better than it would have been w/o being rebuilt from the ground up.

[Sort of like Wretchard and others' remarks on the costs of having left SH in place when the decision to go to war is criticized.]

12/18/2007 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger newscaper said...

For Dan and No genius...

"(# KIA's was a big deal then - little did they know what was to come...)"

Oh, you must be talking about the few thousand lost troops. As in, less troops than we lost in many single BATTLES in WWII. Little more than we lost per MONTH at the height of Vietnam.

Calm down, Dan, you're missing No Genius' point that KIAs *were* a big deal to the domestic opposition. NG was NOT saying the KIAs from the start were actually bad. Sheesh. It drives me crazy when people are ready to jump on people who fundamentally agree with them because they don't read carefully.

To the extent Bush & Rummy have goofed up -- not shooting looters, light footprint, premature Iraqification -- it has been IMO because of genuine and correct worries about the liberals at home (though "Damned the torpedoes" would have the been better repsonse). So when the Dems ever try to criticize prosection of the war, sometimes even from the right, I call BS on 'em.

12/18/2007 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger eggplant said...

Newscaper said:

"To the extent Bush & Rummy have goofed up ... it has been IMO because of genuine and correct worries about the liberals at home...."

Newscaper is correct.

The President was required to fight two enemies at once, i.e. the islamic fascists in front of him and the moonbats behind him. An overly optimized military tactic against the islamic fascists would have handed political victory to the moonbats who in turn would have cut-and-run thus handing military victory back to the islamic fascists. This was a very difficult balancing act for President Bush and IMHO totally unnecessary.

There will eventually be another 9-11 attack. After it happens, the distinction between lawful dissent by a loyal opposition versus harmful sedition should have clear legal definition with enforcement provisions. In particular this activity of people within the State Department and the CIA leaking out classified information to the MSM should be legally addressed.

12/18/2007 11:52:00 AM  
Blogger Craigicus said...

Unlike NoGenious and Journalist Ricks, I'm not as sure that keeping a bunch of old cronies around would have been a better choice.

It is so easy to say it was a mistake, but it also would have been much easier for Saddam Hussain to stay in the shadows as a part of the islamacised underground (part of the Iraqi Army invasion plan) and then re-link with the old generals after terrorizing the leadership with assasinations.

Clearly Sadr has at least temporarily stood down his militias now. Would he still have done that if much of the Sunni leadership in the Army were intact?

Would the Iranians felt more of a threat if the senior cadre of the Iraqi Army remained the same ones who battled with Iran? Would the Iranians contributed more resources to de-stabilize it's neighbor had the old army leadership kept the reigns of power?

Totally disbanding the army was a solid and informed choice, however painful.

Criticize Bush and Rumsfeld all you want, but the alternatives offered never looked much better than the hands that were played.

12/18/2007 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger newscaper said...

I totally agree about disbanding the IA not being an obvious mistake, at least not at all in the longer term. See my post above.

I think far too many war supporters are too ready to grant that one as a "mistake" -- perhaps they thinking eating that one gives them some credibility with the MSM going forward with current pro-war arguments (it helps them not look like warmongering bushbots).

I'm still not sure there is *any* obvious strategy that would have miraculously worked better, given all the homefront opposition (of course those idiots still believe soviet style central economic planning can work too). Perhaps historians in the future will decide that, for the most part, it was necessary that the Iraqis develop buyer's remorse for the insurgency the hard way, as has happened.

12/18/2007 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger NoGenius said...

Like I mentioned in my first post, I think our military is able to effectively perform a lessons learned evaluation on what has happened, so I am sure the question of the IA dissolution will be considered in detail by those that need to know.

I think this is a huge advantage to our military, they outlive Presidents and can look on things much more objectively.

12/18/2007 03:06:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

I don’t agree that disbanding Saddam’s Army was a mistake. I don’t think we had a choice. It disbanded itself. If it had not the Shia troops would have killed all the Sunni officers.

I think that people are gradually coming around to my point of view – the error was not in disbanding he old army, it was not locking up every one of them that we could find, along with all of the Batthists, anyone who looked like he knew which end of a gun the round came out of and all people who could not answer the question “Who won the World Series in 1944?”

Okay, that would have been a challenge. But much easier than the way it ended up. And the moonbats would have gone nuts. Well, they went nuts anyway, and BFD.

The biggest question I see is whether the “mistakes” that were made were Mandatory Mistakes, in the same way that letting the locals in Miami and New Orleans try to handle major hurricane disasters were Mandatory Mistakes. Based on my Pentagon experience I can tell you that usually you have to let the “correct” people handle something even if you know they will screw up big time, before you step in and sort out the mess. We probably could have never ever gotten to The Surge if we first had not proved that other, more politically correct methods did not work.

12/18/2007 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

No Genius,

Way to redirect!
You ascert that your point (debated by my post) is not the point your text conveyed?

Hopefully such declarations will not be made again until victory has been achieved, meaning a stable Democratic Iraqi government with the ability to maintain security independently.

So again, stop eating what the media is spooning down your gullet.

The banner of which you speak had NOTHING to do with the war as a whole, rather was related to the carrier upon which the speech took place, leaving active duty for home waters.

To your further point, which is completely unrelated to the comment I quote above, that the Iraqi army should not have been disbanded...

I tire of this argument. The army was disbanded by the invasion. To work with what existed as the Iraqi army immediately after invasion would be to welcome more corruption that currently exists.

12/19/2007 07:46:00 AM  

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