TCS Daily


In Iraq, A Drawdown But Not Out

By Melana Zyla Vickers - June 21, 2006 12:00 AM

I sense something different happening in Iraq. ... I hope there's not an expectation from people that, all of a sudden, there's going to be zero violence -- in other words, it's just not going to be the case. On the other hand I do think we'll be able to measure progress. You can measure progress in capacity of Iraqi units.

-- President Bush, June 14, in response to a question whether now, after his visit to Baghdad and after the death of Zarqawi, he believes the tide is turning in Iraq.

There is a lot of discussion about troop levels. Those troop levels will be decided upon by Gen. Casey ... in consultation with an Iraqi government. But whatever decision Gen. Casey makes, the message is going to be, we stand with you. In other words, if you're more capable it requires less troops, but nevertheless, we're still with you.
-- President Bush, same press conference.

Americans eager to divine whether and when U.S. troops might start coming home from Iraq can draw two conclusions from the president's words last week. First, the biggest determinant of a drawdown will be the quality and quantity of Iraqi forces. But even as those Iraqi forces improve, and thus allow U.S. forces to reduce their numbers, the insurgent violence will likely continue.

Americans might mistake the drawdown of U.S. troops amid continued fighting as defeat or abandonment of Iraq. But it won't be. It'll be a sustainable path to victory, superior to the U.S.-led path that the United States and Iraq are now following.

U.S. forces have been in the lead in Iraq for 39 months, suffering at least 2,500 lives lost and 18,490 wounded. They have much to show for it: The first free and fair elections have been held. Saddam Hussein is in the slammer. His sons are gone, his henchmen dead or imprisoned. Zarqawi is dead. Iraq is not at risk of being taken over by its neighbors. The government has been formed, if messily. Iraqi security forces are being built up, if belatedly. The electrical grid is being rebuilt, if ham-handedly. The oil is being pumped, if slowly. The wheels of the economy and government are beginning to turn, if corruptly. In most of the country, women and children can walk freely in the streets, if warily.

But if U.S. forces have much to show for their sacrifices, they also have a persistent, confounding problem. They're a bull's eye for Iraqi insurgents and terrorist-backed foreign fighters, in a struggle that shows few signs of abating -- even with Zarqawi dead.

The insurgents will be beaten eventually. But there's reason to believe they can be fought more effectively with the U.S. taking a less direct role, while the Iraqis are out front. Only an indigenous Iraqi counter-insurgency can muster the persistence, national will and tactical advantage necessary to beat down and defeat their adversary.

That's not to say that if the counter-insurgency were Iraqi-led, the insurgents would stop fighting. To the contrary, there's almost a guarantee that the fighting will continue, because their struggles are historical and deeply felt. The Sunnis and Shias will continue to attack each other. The Sunnis will continue to fight to regain power. And Shia groups will continue to fight other Shias, possibly for years to come.

But with the Americans in a supporting role, the terrorists and foreign fighters behind the insurgency in Iraq would lose a lot of steam. They'd lose the recruiting argument that they were battling an occupier. They'd lose the excuse that they were aiming at Americans and their puppets, instead of their own fellow Iraqis and Muslims. And as the Iraqis clamped down on them and the insurgents lost the hope that they could actually drive out the forces rallying against them, many of the potential insurgents and their supporters in the Sunni populace would lose their will to fight.

As the fighting continued, in several important ways the transition from a U.S.-led to an Iraqi-led counter-insurgency would be bad news for the insurgents and foreign fighters in Iraq.

The task right now is to get to that transition point. A drawdown that begins this year, and gets from 136,000 down to 50,000 troops within 24 months doesn't seem out of the question. But several things need to happen to get the Iraqis ready to receive the baton:

  • Iraqi police and their families need to be better protected against insurgent attacks, both at work and at home. They ought to have fortified stations and living quarters.
  • Iraqi security forces need better means of communicating and calling for backup when they come under attack by insurgents.
  • The job of advising and training Iraqi police and the military needs to become the top priority of the U.S military.

Right now, the United States is still too ambivalent on whether its job in Iraq is to fight the insurgency or to prepare to hand the fight over to the Iraqis. There are still discussions in the public sphere about increasing troops rather than decreasing them, and talk of occupying Iraq for years on end, as though the United States had a mission to be an imperial power. The ambivalence needs to end.

Transferring the counter-insurgency fight to the Iraqis is what's best for American troops, whose mission to liberate Iraq has largely, if less than perfectly, been accomplished. It's also what's best for the Iraqis. U.S. forces need to take a far less direct role, while continuing to advise the Iraqi military, providing air power, conducting special-operations missions of the sort that nabbed Zarqawi, and maintaining a quick-reaction force that can back up Iraqi forces if necessary. This will probably require keeping some 50,000 troops engaged in Iraq for the coming years, down from almost three times as many. Meanwhile, the U.S. government needs to stay fully engaged assisting the Iraqi government financially and politically.

Clarity of thinking is more critical than ever. Job one is to get the Iraqi military and police on their own two feet so they can lead the counter-insurgency, and to prepare the American public for a transition that is almost guaranteed to take place amid violence and continued strife. The transition will give Iraq its strongest opportunity to defeat the insurgents. And it will put U.S. troops in an essential but indirect role in Iraq that the American people can support for the long term.

Melana Zyla Vickers is a TCS contributing writer.

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22 Comments

paths
the current path being followed by the US is the same path it has followed for the last several years. Build up and improve the Iraqi forces so that they can eventually completely take over the job of protecting their own country.
The fact that the MSM does not consider progress in this area to be worth covering is not proof that no progress has been made.
Something like 3/4ths of Iraq is now patrolled solely by Iraqi forces. Large swaths of Baghdad itself have been turned over to Iraqi control.

Of the almost 500 raids conducted in the week after the death of Zarqawi, over 1/4th were conducted by Iraqi troops, unassisted by American troops. Over half of the remaining raids were lead by Iraqi troops, with US troops providing support. Of the remaining, I don't believe any raid did not have at least some Iraqi troops involved.

The number and quality of the police and military forces in Iraq has increased steadily for years.
In the US army, a recruit can be trained in as little as 90 days. (Basic training that is, specialized training takes longer.) This is in an environment rich with highly seasoned NCO's and officers. It takes years to train a drill sargent. It takes years to train and season an officer corps.

It is the creation of the NCO's and officer corps that was the last obstacle to creating an Iraqi force able to stand on it's own. That effort is now reaching fruition.

I saw a report a week ago that the Pentagon believes that we can start drawing down our forces in Iraq by the end of the year, and be substantially withdrawn by the end of 2008.

This is not a change of plans or strategy, but rather the culmination of a strategy that has been followed since shortly after the invasion.

They beat the Dems to the punch
It would seem the government of Iraq has taken troop withdrawal seriously:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/19/AR2006061901237.html?nav=rss_opinion/columns

Now what will Murtha and Kerry "cut and run" away from now?

Fighting a Persistent Insurgency
One cannot help drawing a comparison of the Shia-Sunni
in-fighting with the religion-based killings in Ireland not so long ago. But how long did that fighting persist?
We can probably expect the Iraqi conflict to persist at least that long, and it should not deter us from leaving when the Iraqi military is ready to take over.

Biting the bullet
An interesting memo, Mr T... but how does this Iraqi government rep propose to quiet the spiralling civil war and satisfy the discontented? Doesn't he realize that insurrection will continue until all parties are satisfied that the national government represents them and their best interests? Otherwise the chaos will continue indefinitely... or until a new Saddam becomes powerful enough to clamp his boot down on everyone's neck.

The Shia aren't powerful enough to crush Sunni resistance, and no one else is in any position to dominate. So we have an outlook of pogroms and death squad activities into the indefinite future. It's a war of all against all. I can't picture an American backed government, enforcing an American ghostwritten constitution, prevailing over the welter of opposing forces currently active. I think what people like Murtha are saying is that the sooner we remove ourselves from the fray, the sooner the picture will simplify and some group will rise to the top, bringing peace the way the Taliban did in Afghanistan back in 1995.

It undoubtedly won't be a group that likes us, but then we had no business being there in the first place, telling them how to run their lives. A twenty year American presence couldn't make them like us, so we should just recognize the fact now and head for the exit. Fewer lives will be lost that way, and the end result will be no worse ultimately than if we chose to stay "as long as it takes".

The [dis]loyal opposition
Have you noticed that the [dis]loyal opposition is so intent on comparisions with Vietnam that they are proposing the same failed policies?
1. Cut and run.
2. Declare victory and go home.
3. Micromanage the battles from afar.
4. Second guess everything that happens on the battlefield.
5. Assume the worst of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines.

I see that roy still continues to see only what he wants to see
...

Full Circle
Iraq: Oil and the Next Conflagration
Stratfor, June 21, 2006

...While tensions are mounting over the question of oil rights, this issue will not boil over until attention is detracted from the insurgency. AND THAT BRINGS US FULL CIRCLE: For the insurgency to wane, the Sunnis need security and institutional guarantees, which evidently include the right to oil revenues. At the same time, the Kurds will be unlikely to budge substantially from the constitutional guarantees already put in place. The Shia, meanwhile, are already embroiled in their own internal debate over who gets control of the southern oil fields.

Oil is money, and money is power. In the case of Iraq, the entire notion of a federal Iraqi republic rests on the question of WHETHER THE COUNTRY'S OIL REVENUES CAN BE EQUITABLY DIVIDED UP, and the complications surrounding this question are piling up by the day.

http://www.stratfor.com/products/premium/read_article.php?
id=267964&selected=Analyses

not really fighting
This is what happens when you enjoin a fight but hamstring yourself by rules of engagement that handicap you. For example the terrorists can fire from and on mosques, but the good guys can't. The good guys take prisoners, then release them to join the battle again; the bad guys don't take prisoners. Unless you're prepared to really fight, there's no point in *****-footing around the way we are in Iraq. This problem is not new; I guess Alexander the Great had to deal with the same thing there, so did Ghengiz Khan. Even the British, those soldiers in shorts, with their primitive weapons, effectively made them capitulate back in the 20s I think it was. If all those guys could win, why not us? Answer: fighting with one arm tied behind your back.

Failed policies?
Only one policy has been tried so far-- so only one policy is failing. That policy has been to hang around looking like a target until trouble happens, then trying to find someone to retaliate against.

There are no "battles". There is no visible enemy. Even in Falluja, it was only the people who lived there who received the force of our fury. How can one micromanage a strategy that never does anything but maintain an unwanted presence? Should we praise this approach?

Such a war gives birth to rage and frustration. We should not be surprised there is the occasional atrocity, but that so far it has been so rare.

Good article but what do you mean "the ambivalence has to end?"
The author writes:

"There are still discussions in the public sphere about increasing troops rather than decreasing them, and talk of occupying Iraq for years on end, as though the United States had a mission to be an imperial power. The ambivalence needs to end."

Asking for an "end" to the "ambivalence" embodied by "discussions in the public sphere" doesn't quite seem appropriate in a democracy. Zickers has a reasonable argument, but she shouldn't insist that everyone agree with it. If someone thinks that Iraq would be better off having permanent US bases, like Germany and Japan, it seems like they have a right to make their case.

another idea
In order to end the ambivalence we could do as Mark Steyn suggested, we could "appease the appeasers by holding further talks about talks". I guess Hans Blix and Jimmy Carter and the UN would really like that.

The British had primitive weapons?
These would include their oft weapon of choice - poison gas - so often used by Churchill et al? Dropping that from a few thousand feet on unarmed civilians is hardly fighting with one arm tied behind your back.

to Cassius
No right either. Apparently the general there at that time did indeed want to use some excess poison gas left over from WW1, but I've read that even Churchill thought that was a bit much. Mostly the British soldiers in shorts used those very primitive Lee Endfield 303s. But I stick by my point about not having to stomach to really fight anymore. I've also heard that nowadays the Brit forces in iraq are very reluctant to fire on the terrorists who shoot that them because of all the forms they have to fill out, the interrogations they have to suffer, etc. I guess they also, like the americans, take captives only to be released to fight another day. Yes, one arm tied behind their backs.

To Dietmar
I somehow doubt that. If their record in the north of Ireland is anything to go by then they won't have any interrogations (apart from the occasional tickle) to go through or forms to fill in. Beatings and shootings of Iraqis will only come to anything if one of their comrades is too eager and/or too stupid to create a video momento of his Iraqi experiences.
The number of soldiers convicted of over 300 deaths caused by British Army fire in Ireland in the last 30-odd years can be counted on one hand. Then they are re-admitted to their regiment.

UK soldiers
I've know a few guys who actually fought there, and that's not what they report to me. One of them was even a sniper and unless he's bsing me, said it caused him to have to leave the forces. Anyway, we can't solve that here by arguing, but no matter what, nobody can tell me the brits fight nowadays they way they used to.

Re: UK soldiers
They fought in Ireland or Iraq?
It may be the case that soldiers don't fight how they used to. To an extent I agree with you. But that will have more to do with the fact that military intervention these days is presented more in purely moral terms, rather than in pre-WW2 days as an imperial mission, or during the Cold War as an anti-communist crusade.
Consequently, the political leadership is keen to present modern-day warfare as a moral mission and are keen to prevent any of the more unpalatable aspects of the army's behaviour from being revealed to the general public. They are hyper-sensitive to this because they don't believe an all-out war in Iraq would be supported at home and would lead to more problems than it hopes to solve in the field.
The example of Ireland is instrumental: The Brits presented the conflict as a law and order issue and so had to pay lip service to legality and democracy in order to portray every IRA action as illegitimate. The IRA said it was a war of national liberation and accepted its casualties as one of the consequences of war. No-one is really under any illusion that the Brits played fair, hence the lack of convictions (or even charges) of British Army personnel. They literally got away with murder.
If they'd gone out on an all out offensive against the IRA they would have won in the short-term but most of nationalist Ireland (north and south) would have lined up against them - politically and paramilitarily - thus ensuring their defeat. No question!

to Cassius
Sorry, I meant norther ireland. But then I agreed with your next points. But I still think they jibe with my opinion that the western countries in general no longer have the stomach to really fight the way they used to. And people who don't fight usually get taken over by bullies. For example in euroland not only do these post-modern pacifists don't want to fight, but they're already losing their civilization because more people die than are being born. Actually their replacement population is partially on site already, the muslims, and as one reported stated "it's just a matter of how messy the changeover of the real estate will be."

Dietmar
The West has been unsure of itself since the end of the Cold War. The first Gulf War now seems to be more of an aberration of capitalist triumphalism than the emergence of the then heralded New World Order. Ronald Reagan remarked at the time that the West would soon come to miss the Soviet Union as something to cohere against. Now we see the results of this: Western fragmentation.
This lack of self-belief manifests itself, in my opinion, in the search for an enemy. Even in the Cold War its defence was the negative example of the Soviet Union, which isn't much to shout about! It implies a certain defenciveness. At present, the closest thing to an enemy is the War on Terror. The weakness of this is that in the Cold War there was a labour movement in the West which while not being pro-Soviet held certain assumptions about state socialism or reformism. The presence of Muslims in the West doesn't even compare. Non-Muslims will hardly welcome the Caliphate - even if I believed, as some do, that all Muslims are as hardline as the social inadequate little rich kids turned suicide bombers of the Arabic bourgeoisie.
I'm afraid I completely disagree with your description of muslims in the West. It's reminiscient of how people in the UK used to describe the Irish - 'outbreeding us, an allegiance to Rome first and foremost.' It wasn't true then I don't believe it is now. Hardline loyalists in the north of Ireland have always urged Protestants to outbreed the Catholics for fear of being in a minority. That will soon happen but there is absolutely no danger of the north being reunited with the south. The reason is that it doesn't take into account the changing political realities and allegiances on the ground. (And Protestants and Catholics are far more polarised along unionist and nationalist lines than anything the most fundamentalist of muslims could hope for.)

Dietmar
The West has been unsure of itself since the end of the Cold War. The first Gulf War now seems to be more of an aberration of capitalist triumphalism than the emergence of the then heralded New World Order. Ronald Reagan remarked at the time that the West would soon come to miss the Soviet Union as something to cohere against. Now we see the results of this: Western fragmentation.
This lack of self-belief manifests itself, in my opinion, in the search for an enemy. Even in the Cold War its defence was the negative example of the Soviet Union, which isn't much to shout about! It implies a certain defensiveness. At present, the closest thing to an enemy is the War on Terror. The weakness of this is that in the Cold War there was a labour movement in the West which while not being pro-Soviet held certain assumptions about state socialism or reformism. The presence of Muslims in the West doesn't even compare. Non-Muslims will hardly welcome the Caliphate - even if I believed, as some do, that all Muslims are as hardline as the social inadequate little rich kids turned suicide bombers of the Arabic bourgeoisie.
I'm afraid I completely disagree with your description of Muslims in the West. It's reminiscent of how people in the UK used to describe the Irish - 'outbreeding us, an allegiance to Rome first and foremost' etc. It wasn't true then I don't believe it is now. Hardline loyalists in the north of Ireland have always urged Protestants to outbreed the Catholics for fear of being in a minority. Catholics will soon outnumber them but there is absolutely no danger of the north being reunited with the south. The reason is that crude number crunching doesn't take into account the changing political realities and allegiances on the ground. (And Protestants and Catholics are far more polarised along unionist and nationalist lines than anything the most fundamentalist of Muslims could hope for.)

needing enemies
So it means that you don't even recognize the danger even if it's staring us in the face. Talking about Irishmen is not like talking about appeasing muslims; it's another false historical analogy like when they say that gitmo is the same as auschwitz, or Bush is just like Hitler. They took some auschwitz survivors to gitmo and they report that it is quite different.
So when the brits are afraid to show the union jack in some places like their prisions(where about 20 or 30% are alrady muslims),because it might offend them. When in Germany they've started to have segregated swimming or gym classes because it might offend muslims. Where in France when they riot they get offered more welfare in order to stop. Where in some beaches in australia also can't show their own flag because it might look jingoistic. Where in Canada they maybel already have, or are trying hard to get sharia law for family problems. Where western governments don't believe the fatwas against ALL of us, but just say that it's sort of rhetoric for locals. Where westerner countries impose self-censorship towards even commenting on muslims or showing like the cartoon-jihad a few months ago. So if you're not worried about Eurabia, or Londonistan; then you're just naive, and, probably like most westerners weak, decadent and lazy.

Define the West not the Rest
I agree that the analogies with Gitmo and Auschwitz, and Bush and Hitler are wide of the mark. It is offensive to Holocaust survivors. I didn't mention it so you'd be advised not to put words in my mouth.( I will say, however, that a more consistent comparison with Gitmo is the Long Kesh/Maze P.O.W. camp of Northern Ireland.)

Re: the Irish in Britain analogy - Earlier in C20 they were treated like s*** and weren't trusted because it was thought their allegiance was to a foreign head of state - the Pope. Later, there were the now legendary rental vacancy notices saying 'No blacks. No Irish. No dogs.' They were discriminated in the workplace, abused on the street, treated with suspicion and arrested at random precisely because Brits viewed ALL of them as fifth columnists. Ask any Irishman who was around from the 1970s and they will tell you of the intense hostility they experienced in that period.

Brits afraid of flying the national flag? There are currently thousands of England flags flying from people's houses, cars, pubs and from street lights. Young (and not so young) Asian lads and girls wear the England football shirt so I don't see any hostility, apart from a few cranks to flying the flag.
Where there is official action concerning flags it is rare indeed. Such actions (along with other PC measures) are put into practice WITHOUT any pressure from Muslims.
It goes back to my previous point that Western political elites don't know what they stand for. Instead, immigrants and their offspring are portrayed as The Other. Again, rather than saying what the West IS, it merely says what it ISN'T. I'm afraid you seem to have fallen into that trap.
The debate about Islam (which HAS begun in this country) is further down the line in France. There, a binary opposition between Islam and French republicanism is used to construct a French tradition that doesn't exist in reality, and to define the values and purpose of the French nation which cannot otherwise be defined.
Those marked out as 'Muslim' in France are rarely the fundamentalist obscurantist figures of the republican stereotype. The social mores of young North Africans in France today are little different from their white counterparts. Even in Britain the Daily Telegraph commented a couple of years ago that Asian youth had integrated 'too well' because drug addiction and crime were as common among them in some areas as it is among whites of their own age.

ememies
Between the weak, fearful people, and the apologists, and the ones with their heads in the sand, is why the rich, decadent, spoint west is losing. I'm not quite sure which of the above you are. But weak people always depend on the strong ones to defend them; unless it gets to a critical mass whereby it can't happen anymore.

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