Monday, June 04, 2007

The Surge's Pre-September Evaluation -- Not Working

The New York Time is reporting the basic Baghdad based Army evaluation of the success of the current 'surge' operation. It is not working for a multitude of reasons:

Three months after the start of the Baghdad security plan that has added thousands of American and Iraqi troops to the capital, they control fewer than one-third of the city’s neighborhoods, far short of the initial goal for the operation, according to some commanders and an internal military assessment.

The American assessment, completed in late May, found that American and Iraqi forces were able to “protect the population” and “maintain physical influence over” only 146 of the 457 Baghdad neighborhoods.

The remaining neighborhoods have either not seen a patrol presence or have been able to fight the US or Iraqi Army to at least a draw and maintain a disputed presence. If the goal of the surge was to secure neighborhoods, pacify them and thus either kill, capture or more likely dry up the support base of actively shooting at the US and Iraqi government insurgents, the two thirds of the city that are still in dispute will allow people to flow back and forth and escape main force operations without breaking a significant sweat.

Violence has diminished in many areas, but it is especially chronic in mixed Shiite-Sunni neighborhoods in western Baghdad, several senior officers said. Over all, improvements have not yet been as widespread or lasting across Baghdad, they acknowledged.

I wonder how much of the decrease in violence was due to a combination of seasonal factors as January, and February tend to be the annual lull months? I also wonder how much of the decrease in violence was due to the insurgent groups following the 3rd rule of Guerrilla warfare --- when the enemy does something different, observe and learn. The Mahdi Army/JAM backed away for a couple of months from their late night anti-Sunni Arab death squad activity, but have been ramping back up. There is a good chance that a significant amount of the reduction in violence was from early in the surge and the trend lines are re-establishing themselves at the previous level of thirty to fifty dead per night, major attacks against Shi'ite social spaces and continued fighting against US forces.

If the above explanation is wrong, another potential explanation is the decrease in violence is localized to areas that have already been effectively ethnically/sectarian cleansed. The major flash-points of fighting as noted by the New York Times are in the sectarian mixed neighborhoods. Sadr City and Abu Ghraib are both relatively 'calm' with the exception of the occasional mortar barrage or marketplace car bomb.

In an interview, he said that while military planners had expected to make greater gains by now, that has not been possible in large part because Iraqi police and army units, which were expected to handle basic security tasks, like manning checkpoints and conducting patrols, have not provided all the forces promised, and in some cases have performed poorly.

That is forcing American commanders to conduct operations to remove insurgents from some areas multiple times. The heavily Shiite security forces have also repeatedly failed to intervene in some areas when fighters, who fled or laid low when the American troops arrived, resumed sectarian killings....

In addition, around 30,000 Iraqi Army and national police forces and another 21,000 policemen have been deployed in Baghdad. Many of the Iraqi units have turned up at less than full strength and other units have been redeployed from the capital, General Brooks said, leaving fewer than expected.

Shocking --- Iraqi units that are locally recruited and locally led by their fellow sect members and political militia commanders are not invested in fighting for an American vision of Iraq that is wildly opposed to their vision of Iraq. Before Operation Forward Together was launched, I predicted the same basic reality would play out:

since the Interior Ministry is a sectarian security force now, they'll see nothing when they search a home in Sadr City or Kadhimiya, even if it is a veritable bunker, but will accuse a family of harboring insurgents in Abu Ghraib if they have three butter knives.....Sunni Arab Army units will "search" Sunni Arab dominated neighborhoods, and Shi'ite Army and Interior Ministry units will "search" Shi'ite neighborhoods....

either Operation Forward Together is just a big chomp and stomp raid as the forces involved are too small to be successful throughout the entire city or it is a targetted operation against Sunni Arab neighborhoods. If it is the latter case, the mole starts moving elsewhere to be whacked, and it acts as further confirmation of the belief in the Sunni Arab population that the political process is designed to screw them over.

So great progress will be proclaimed. Impressive press conferences with seemingly large caches of 'insurgent' weaponry will shown. There will be a short term dip in violent attacks in Baghdad, but no real change nationwide, and in three months, Baghdad continues its downward spiral.

The insurgent moles and the sectarian death squad moles are behaving exactly as one would expect, fleeing confrontations against multiple battalions of US heavy infantry, enjoying a couple cups of tea two kilometers away and then re-appearing once those battalions are elsewhere:

The sectarian violence was especially disheartening to some American officers because it occurred in May, the same month that they were undertaking the centerpiece of the Baghdad security plan — a neighborhood clearing operation.

The battalion’s troops, augmented by more than 2,000 soldiers in armored Stryker vehicles, went block by block through the neighborhood, arresting suspected insurgents and destroying arms caches.

But since the Stryker unit has moved on to a different area of Baghdad, “there’s been a reinfiltration” by Shiite fighters and intimidation squads, who had left the area when the operation began, said Capt. Tim Wright, the company commander responsible for the neighborhood.

We've been here before with Operations Lightening, Forward Together, and Forward Together Part Deux. We know the script, they know the script, and we keep on replaying the script. We expect the Iraqi Army and police to be competent and listen to the great and authoratitive wisdom of their US officers without thinking about what is motivating a Shi'ite infantry battalion to fight and to fight hard. We expect units to actually show up at 95% strength and to care about what is happening at a place where they have no direct stake. We expect an Iraqi government that is composed of sectarian Shi'ite parties to crack down on sectarian Shi'ites.

Doing this once is a mistake, twice is a crime, and repeating it a third time is insanity. We're at the fourth major repetition of this same basic operational plan with the same level of success, so where are we now --- the outright delusional?

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