Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Counter-Surge Out Of Baghdad

The Associated Press interviews Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commander of US forces in Northern Iraq, and what he has to say is not good news for Bush's surge.
A new security crackdown in Baghdad has encouraged mostly Sunni extremists to flee the capital for surrounding provinces, especially Diyala, Mixon said.

That influx has caused a spike in violence in the province, known as "Little Iraq" because of its near-equal mix of Sunni and Shiite Arabs as well as Kurds — the country's three major groups.

"We're working our way into the Baghdad security plan, and we won't be into the thick of it until late spring or summer. I expect more violence in Diyala through then," Mixon said.

Direct fire attacks on U.S. soldiers are up 70 percent in Diyala since last summer, according to Col. David W. Sutherland, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division's 3rd Brigade.

Mixon blamed the violence on a robust Sunni insurgency fueled by former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party, rather than on foreign fighters or the Sunni-Shiite conflict that has enveloped Baghdad.

Less than two percent of the nearly 3,000 people detained across northern Iraq in the past six months were foreigners, Mixon said.

"Make no mistake, this is a homegrown Sunni insurgency," he said.

...Sunni militants were flooding into Diyala to avoid the so-called "surge" of U.S. forces in the capital, but also as part of a larger strategy, Mixon said.

"Sunnis understand they need to control areas around Baghdad if they eventually want to control Baghdad," he said. "We're seeing insurgents shifting elements from Anbar and Baghdad, to ensure they retain control of Diyala," he said.

With about 20,000 additional American troops heading to Baghdad, Mixon said he had "only one little brigade covering all of Diyala."

A brigade is the smallest self-sufficient unit in the U.S. Army, and typically consists of between 1,500 and 3,500 soldiers.

Mixon said he would like to deploy more U.S. soldiers to small patrol bases in Iraqi communities, rather than on large forward operating bases across northern Iraq. But he said he was unable to do so because of troop numbers.

"I don't have the combat power to put everyone on small patrol bases like we do in Baghdad," Mixon said.

On Friday, a top Pentagon envoy, retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, assured U.S. and Iraqi military officials in Diyala that help was on the way.

"Our new strategy is (for US forces) to bring the violence down so Iraqi forces can deal with it," said Keane, who was visiting Iraq on a fact-finding mission by Gen. David Petraeus, the new commander of U.S. forces here.

"We're going to work hard on this in Baghdad, and then add more forces outside Baghdad as well," he said.
So Maj. General Mixon has all of Spring and parhaps Summer too before his beleagured brigade can expect any help from troops deployed to Baghdad. At about that time the Sunni insurgents will move back into the capital where there will then be too few troops, dispersed over too many small fortress patrol bases, to prevent the whole cycle beginning again. At about the same time, the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias will be doing the same thing, returning from their safe areas in places like Basra. The "surge" is just another version of the whack-a-mole deployments which have failed to produce anything like "victory" for four years now.

Indeed, many predicted exactly this when the surge plan was first announced. It was only the Bush administration and the neocon crowd who duplicated the faith-based planning that got them and the rest of the US into the mess in Iraq in the first place by supposing that this time, for no reason other than wishing upon a star, the moles would stand still to be whacked.

No comments: