This is an opinion piece. pl
In the last few weeks a new theme has emerged among the spokesmen and friends of the present policy in Iraq.
That theme maintains that the improvement in the situation on the ground in Anbar Province and perhaps in Diyala as well is the result of the increased number of US combat forces available for offensive counterguerrilla action on a large scale. The theme insists that US forces are driving the AQinM "foreigners" before them like game and that in the aftermath local leaders are stepping forward to embrace the cause of the Baghdad government. It is said that as a result police recruitment is significantly increased and these provinces are on the way to becoming an example to the rest of the Middle East and the "momentum booster"for regional revolution so long predicted by neocon theory.
This thematic emphasis accepts the idea that the application of sufficient combat power will reverse the present adverse situation and create altogether new conditions. If this is the basis of administration thinking, then the multi-faceted subtleties of the COIN doctrine laid out in the NEW US Army field manual are not necessary and it will no longer be necessary for senior commanders to try to "eat soup with a knife."
Spokesmen and administration friends like Senator Graham of South Carolina are now emphasizing the centrality of foreign jihadis among the enemy forces in Iraq and the necessity of defeating those foreigners there before AQinM extends its operations to America.
A few points:
– The tribals in Anbar were brought into cooperation with US FORCES (not the government) by the simple expedient of being receptive to tribesmen who feared and hated the AQinM threat to their tribal law and way of life. There is an increase in Iraqi police in Anbar. Yes, but they are really tribal auxiliaries to the Iraqi police and they are serving under their own leaders. This is a "deputization" of the tribesmen to clear their own dirahs. This is a good thing. what is not a good thing is to imagine that this phenomenon was caused by increased US combat operations. The outcome in Diyala remains undecided at this time.
– The situation in Baghdad is as bad as ever.
– The logic of the claims now being made by the administration leads to an outcome in which the September "report" asks for more time and more troops. It will be argued that the tide has turned, a recipe for success has been found and the implication will be clear that whomever wishes to give up and go home will have stabbed the armed forces in the back and exposed the American people to the future ravages of AQinM. Part of the logic of this argument will be the present inclination in the WH and NSC to "lock" the next president into the war in Iraq thus continuing Bush Administration strategy. General Pace revealed to reporters on his recent trip to Iraq that a troop increase is among the options being considered.
– COIN is difficult, complex and hard to measure success for. Most of the present seniors in the US forces are not equipped by personality type, education or life experience for that kind of work. Their efforts (under pressure) to master the subtleties of Bernard Fall’s deceptively simple formula "Counterinsurgency = Political Action + Civic Action + Counter-guerrilla Operations" are painful to watch. they will be quite willing to accept a methodology that lets them return to an emphasis on what they call "kinetic operations."
– Where will they find more troops? There will be no draft. The Republicans would vote against it, much less the Democrats. I suggest that they will create third rate security units out of USAF and US Navy personnel to take over more or less static duties and "free up" first line troops for more offensive operations (kinetic). Artillerymen are already being used in second line duties of the same kind.
– The first COIN era in the US Army lasted roughly from the ’50s to the end of the VN War when COIN as a doctrine was abandoned by the Army. It began with the publication of Maxwell Taylor’s book, "The Uncertain Trumpet," and flourished in many theaters and in VN until the introduction of conventional units by the North Vietnamese Government in late 1964. This was met by the US with introduction of massive conventional power of its own in an attempt to destroy the NVA through kinetic attrition. This failed. The failure led to the re-introduction of a COIN based strategy after 1967. In the end, the Ho Chi Minh government won through attrition of the US public will to continue the fight. In this war, we began with an attempt at attrition of "dead-enders," then switched for the last couple of years to a COIN revival and now are reverting to a system based on kinetic operations as the key to attrition of the enemy’s will to fight and to increased public adherence to the government.
The cycle has shortened. pl