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The Strategy Of Surge In Iraq

The objective of arrest, clear and hold will be central to the surge.
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Jan 19, 2007
Gen. Dave Petraeus' new "surge" strategy to tame Baghdad has been eagerly adopted by the Bush administration, but its success seems unlikely. First of all, the surge has been much hyped, but it is exceptionally underpowered. Of the 21,500 U.S. troops supposedly being added to the forces in Iraq, especially in Baghdad, initially only 7,000 will be going out by the end of February.

It will be months before the other 14,000 are shipped out. Given the heavy casualties, force attrition and exhaustion that U.S. combat forces have been experiencing in Iraq, along with the growing immediate demands of the Afghanistan theater, the difficulty in finding more troops at short notice should not be surprising.

However, Baghdad is a city of 7 million people and the five existing U.S. combat brigades already operating there have been far too few to make significant inroads into Sunni insurgent violence, let alone take on the far more numerous and formidable Shiite militias too.

As Trudy Rubin pointed out Friday in the Philadelphia Inquirer, U.S. Army counter-insurgency doctrine explicity states that at least 20 troops are needed to secure every 1,000 people in the general population. That level of force ratio would require 140,000 U.S. troops concentrated in Baghdad alone -- equivalent to current U.S. force levels for the entire California-sized country of 28 million people. The immediate troops "surge" of 7,000 is therefore only one-twentieth, or 5 percent, of the minimum force levels that current U.S. military doctrine requires as necessary.

The Bush move therefore contradicts what Winston Churchill called the fundamental catastrophic error in waging war: Doing things half-heartedly, with vastly insufficient force. Either an operation should be carried out with overwhelming force, as former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell maintained in his famous military doctrine, or not at all. Powell applied his principle with exceptional success when he amassed an enormous army of 700,000 troops to crush Iraq's far more formidable military -- then the fourth or fifth largest in the world, in the 1991 Gulf War.

Second, the boosted U.S. military force in Baghdad is unlikely to be allowed to concentrate on its primary task, to protect the civilian population from the Sunni insurgents, because there are already strong indications that it will be required to carry out very different, even contradictory missions.

Tensions continue to rise in Iraq between U.S. forces and the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr, the most militant of the Shiite paramilitary militias. U.S. military analysts estimate that it took the equivalent of an additional U.S. combat division, some 20,000 extra men, to defeat the formidable widespread uprising that the Mahdi Army mounted against the U.S. military presence in April 2004.

However, the Mahdi Army, the other Shiite militias, and the Shiite-dominated regular police and army have been heavily infiltrated by, and is sympathetic to, the militias. The Mahdi Army has also grown greatly in size and capabilities since then. Some estimates put the national manpower, albeit untrained, that the Mahdi Army can count upon as high as 100,000.

If the U.S. forces in Baghdad have to suppress a new Mahdi Army rising, or even just defend themselves from it, then they will have their hands full. And they will be alienating the very Shiite majority population the surge is ostensible designed to defend against the Sunni insurgents. That kind of mission confusion is a recipe for operational failure -- and worse.

Third, Baghdad today is not Mosul a year or two ago. Gen. Petraeus' previous success in the Kurdistan may make him overconfident about applying the same principles to a very different society and theater of operations down south.

Baghdad is a vastly more populous city than Mosul and an infinitely more violent and fractured one. And the Shiite population in Baghdad is far more militant and far more uncertain in its sympathies towards U.S. military forces than the majority Kurds of the north were. Success in Mosul therefore does not guarantee the automatic success of the same kinds of tactics in the very different conditions of Baghdad. On the contrary, repeating once successful tactics in a very different operational theater where the conditions are so different is far more often a recipe for military disaster.

Finally, the U.S. forces being sent to Baghdad are going to be dispersed around different neighborhoods in order to help the local population more. If the general population were sympathetic to the U.S. counter-insurgency forces, as was the case among the majority populations being protected by British forces in its highly successful 1969-1994 military operations against the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland, or in the later years of the Malaya communist insurgency in the early 1950s, this strategy would have a good probability of succeeding.

However, the number of U.S troops being sent appears far too few, as noted above, to make that kind of difference. And the sympathies of the Shiite majority population appear highly uncertain, to say the least. Further, spreading the new U.S. troop contingent out that way could make them far more vulnerable to attacks initially from the Sunni insurgents and eventually possibly from Shiite militia forces too. Far from boosting confidence in the U.S. military presence, this deployment could therefore boost the boldness of both Shiite and Sunni paramilitary forces in launching more attacks against U.S. forces as American casualties increase.

The outcome of the surge could produce far more positive results than the above assessment suggests. But the long track record of miscalculation and ignorance of Iraqi conditions by Pentagon civilian analysts to this point does not give grounds for confidence.

Source: United Press International

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Arab Nations Gave The US Carte Blanche In Iraq
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Jan 18, 2007
While the American elite is discussing in Washington whether to support or not President Bush's strategy in Iraq, the Arab leaders have already accepted it. Attending a foreign minister conference of the Gulf nations, Jordan and Egypt on Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heard voices of approval. The Saudi representatives expressed a common position - the U.S. president's new strategy deserves support if it guarantees Iraq's unity and equality of all sections of society.

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