Thursday, March 24, 2005
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So how's Iraqification going, part II
As a follow-up to my previous post on the question of transfering police and security functions to Iraqis, it's worth linking and quoting from Spencer Ackerman's Iraq'd blog. Ackerman -- hardly a fan of the administration's Iraq policy in the past -- was a huge fan of the raid on foreign insurgents that took place yesterday.
Why is Ackerman in such a good mood about this raid?:
Developing....posted by Dan on 03.24.05 at 10:07 AM
This is definitely very good, yes. But one should be a little cautious of Iraqi Government reporting. The Iraqi Information Minister may be gone, but some of his spirit still seems to linger on in the Iraqi government, who are forever picking up close aides of Al Zarqawi.
US government reports on these engagements are generally much more reliable -- and they indicate a successfui operation here.
I think part of the disconnect on Iraqification may be because we have different groups of Iraqi police/army:
Ideally, all major operations should be carried out on the ground by Iraqi troops, with the US providing helicopter and air support.posted by: erg on 03.24.05 at 10:07 AM [permalink]
I think a better indicator is the coalition casualty figures and here there is some sign of a weaker insurgency. So far there have been 30 fatalities in March which is a significantly lower rate than anything in the last year. If this trend continues in the next couple of months that could mean the insurgency is winding down.
posted by: Strategist on 03.24.05 at 10:07 AM [permalink]
A good rule of thumb when non-professional forces are reporting their KIAs is to divide by three. I'd say in the neighborhood of 25 is a more likely number.posted by: Mark Buehner on 03.24.05 at 10:07 AM [permalink]
Let's imagine that the insurgency is really winding down and not merely pausing while Iraq struggles to form a government (the reasoning there being that only once ministers and other officials have been chosen does it make sense to attempt their assassination). What are the insurgency's options?
It could continue along the lines Zarqawi outlined last year, staging massacres of Shiites in hopes of drawing Shiite retaliation and uniting Sunnis in a sectarian civil war that would spread to other Arab countries. Alternately, it could attempt attacks on American forces designed to produce large numbers of casualties, the better to counter feeling in Iraq that the insurgency is just interested in killing other Iraqis and is overall running out of gas. Finally, it could hunker down for the long haul, with some of its leaders attempting to join the political process or biding their time until American forces are withdrawn, and some of them, especially the non-Iraqis, leaving the country.
Now if Iraq is unable to form a government and seems to waste the promise of the January elections, the insurgency may have more options than this, and from our perspective there are other things that could go wrong as well. For now, though, observe that the three options described above appear to be mutually exclusive. The insurgency does not appear to have the resources to attempt both of the first two. The first (killing large numbers of Shiite civilians) seems likely to accelerate the decline in the insurgency's public support. There are few ways to pursue the second (attempting to produce large numbers of American casualties) without risking large casualties among the insurgents at the hands of the vastly better trained and equipped American forces. The third option could lead over time to something little different than surrender and abandonment of the insurgency altogether. The faster and more effectively Iraqi government forces are trained and equipped the more likely this outcome appears to be.
For the insurgency this is not a comfortable set of options, and it may be that no definitive choice among them will be made for some time. We should also be aware that insurgents leaving the country, especially non-Iraqis, may simply attempt to resume terrorist activities elsewhere. Having said that, though, any insurgency depends ultimately on a feeling that its members sacrifices will not be in vain -- that in spite of tactical defeats it will ultimately win. To lose that feeling is to have the ground begin to fall away beneath one's feet. Some drastic action or set of actions by the insurgents in response to that sensation may be expected this spring.posted by: Zathras on 03.24.05 at 10:07 AM [permalink]
Well, there are lots of senior people in the parties and the temporary assembly that could be targetted if necessary. So I don't think lack of targets is a reason for any slowdown.
There could be several reasons: a high tempo before the elections exhausted the insurgency, some key captures, use of more Iraqi forces (which reduces coalition casualties, but not overall casualties), fragmentation of the insurgency etc.
Insurgencies wax and wane. This is the time for a political solution, and wisely done, that could see a good Sunni participation in elections next time, and could see a reduction in violence over the next year or so.
"Insurgencies wax and wane. This is the time for a political solution, and wisely done, that could see a good Sunni participation in elections next time, and could see a reduction in violence over the next year or so. "
Agreed. We have, in a sense, been lucky. The insurgents have been dumb. They have killed a bunch of Iraqis and managed to prove to themselves and the world that the US isnt going anywhere. They would (and could) probably be much more effective being more judicious in their use of violence while using political tools to stall for time and forment discord. Angering up the Sunni blood by dragging out the negotiations for government and playing martyr to bad deals forced on them would probably win them a lot of support for a more successful insurgency down the line. Fortunately they are not very smart and only know the carbomb and the knife in the alley as weapons.posted by: Mark Buehner on 03.24.05 at 10:07 AM [permalink]
But then, there are multiple insurgencies that don't get along. This is a fine opportunity for the pro-iraq insurgencies to turn on the Zarqawi group and wipe them out. Assuming they can find them. he insurgents' intelligence has been much better than ours, but that doesn't necessarily mean they can find Zarqawi.
Then there's the matter of Allawi's secret police. People talk like the insurgents have the old iraqi Ba'ath secret police at their core. And Allawi's new secret police have the old iraqi Ba'ath secret police at its core. These people know each other. Are they killing each other off or are they joining sides? Or both? Allawi himself was a Ba'ath who got on the wrong side of Saddam. Say they're trying to take over. Allawi needs the insurgents to look like a threat so he can get his secret police organised secretly under his control. Are the insurgents Allawi allies or not? How would we tell?
Then, the insurgents need to get ready to attack US forces. It's the rainy season when they can't do as much anyway. They need better antiaircraft weapons -- if they could knock down fifty helicopters in one day, and then fifty more the next day....
We should give it a couple more months anyway, see how it's going. I'd thought we could tell a lot in just three months after the elections, but the elected government is moving so slowly it's hard to guess how it will go.
Mark's probably right about the "rule of thumb" here.
But let me go opposite and say that while the killing of 84 some odd "bad-guys" is a good thing, the fact that there were 84 (a light Company-Minus) to be found at one time for the killing is not.posted by: Tommy G on 03.24.05 at 10:07 AM [permalink]
Well, if you discount the numbers, it isn't 80, its 25 or so. So there were maybe 28 or so. Why should that be bad news ? We know that there are probably 10s of thousand of insurgents or so, so they have to be somewhere. Better in one group so they can be attacked.
"This is a fine opportunity for the pro-iraq insurgencies to turn on the Zarqawi group and wipe them out. "
all evidence is that the Baathist insurgents have been working together with the Zarqies - with Al Douri as the key link. They have no intention of turning on their allies.posted by: liberalhawk on 03.24.05 at 10:07 AM [permalink]
as for Allawi, the Interior Ministry will soon be under the control of someone from UIA, with no love for ex-baathists. he will have the difficult task of purging people whose loyalty is suspect, without breaking the intell service as a weapon against the insurgency.posted by: liberalhawk on 03.24.05 at 10:07 AM [permalink]
"Then, the insurgents need to get ready to attack US forces. It's the rainy season when they can't do as much anyway. They need better antiaircraft weapons -- if they could knock down fifty helicopters in one day, and then fifty more the next day...."
Yah, and if Taiwan had an army of 15 million, and thousands of first class aircraft, etc, etc they could invade and liberate China :)posted by: liberalhawk on 03.24.05 at 10:07 AM [permalink]
lh, the Zarqawi guys are a liability and the Ba'athists and salafists might easily be ready to turn on them. They make all the insurgents look bad in exchange for negligible victories.
If Allawi loses command of the secret police then that will be a good thing. It hasn't happened yet.
I don't know whether any of the insurgents have a source for effective anti-helicopter weapons. Iran would want to wait, and anyway would prefer to give them to shia militias who aren't fighting yet anyway. China? Russia? Surely israelis wouldn't sell to them even if they had the money, but other arms dealers? But do they have the money? If we don't start losing copters then it isn't happening.
The nationalists would naturally hope to get invited back to run china. They don't need supreme military strength for that, what they'd need would be for the current regime to collapse. There are precedents, for example han was very weak but when the chin dynasty self-destructed, it was the han dynasty that started up. It might seem absurd to you but it doesn't seem absurd to the nationalists or the chinese communists.
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