May 27, 2009

The Future of Iraq, Part II

The Future of Iraq Part II.jpg

The first time I visited Baghdad, I only stayed for a week. The place stressed me out. The surge was only just then beginning, and though I never was shot at personally, I often heard the sound of gunfire in the background. One night, shadowy militiamen stalked me and a U.S. Army unit I was out on patrol with. Car bombs exploded miles away, but sounded as though they were detonated just a few blocks away. You have no idea, really, how terrifyingly loud those things are until you hear one yourself.

I left Baghdad and headed out to Anbar Province

Posted by Michael J. Totten at May 27, 2009 1:35 AM
The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 05/27/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.
Posted by: David M at May 27, 2009 7:56 am
MJT, it is well written.
A note: IA 42-11 is one of the oldest in the IA. It was the former IA 2-6 before being renamed (when the 6th IAD split into the 6th and 11th IAD.) IA 42-11 was one of the first brigades in the new IA to reach Operational Readiness Assessment (ORA) level 2. The 6th IAD was one of the first two divisions in the IA to stand up, have its division HQs take the lead, and fall under the command of the IGFC.
However, many of the best cadre from 2-6 IA were culled to form other IA units. Therefore much of 42-11 IA was replaced with new recruits in 2007 (many of these were followers of Muqtada al Sadr.)
This was particularly true for 3-42-11 battalion.
Posted by: anand at May 27, 2009 8:40 am
JAM was never unbeatable in Thawra (Sadr City.) Muqtada and his allies got Jafari elected PM in April 2005. Between April 2005 and March 2008, the GoI (PMs Jafari and Maliki) did not allow the IA, IP, or MNF-I to remove JAM from Sadr City.
Many in the IA thought that they could take JAM if given the orders. Although maybe not in 11th IAD. The 8th IAD pulverized JAM in Babil, Karbala, Wasit, Najaf, and Al-Qadisiyah whenever the GoI let them.ا
Posted by: anand at May 27, 2009 10:20 am
Great post. I especially like the pics you selected for it :)
Posted by: programmmer_craig at May 27, 2009 11:08 am
Always fantastic.
I've long and often written, said, and believed -- only Iraqis can win in Iraq.
It looks more clear than ever that American-tolerant Iraqis are winning now, and will continue to do so if the US remains reasonable in the face of irrational attacks.
Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at May 27, 2009 11:14 am
Excellent article...I wish that every journalist writing for the mainstream media would publish work like yours. There is so much more to what is going on in Iraq than just counting off the number of car bombs each month and tallying how many victims there are.
The media is having a field day with the phrase "upsurge in violence" right now and its very disappointing to hear this. Since late 2007, its almost as if Iraq falls off the edge of the earth when there's "news" to report on. The exception of course was March-April 2008, when the Iraqi Army took on JAM and we were hearing about how the war was escalating. I remember one article in the NYT about how the militiamen were "gaining ground" in the Basra battle, even though the ISF humiliated JAM in the end.
I have to say that I am optimistic in Iraq's future. Most of my Iraqi friends who are there on the ground have hope for their country, albeit many fears too. I will continue to hold onto so long as they can.
Once again, great job with this story.
Posted by: C.H. at May 27, 2009 7:00 pm
"it's generational. It doesn't happen overnight."
The Sadr City billboard...reminds me of last October's opening of Dover Park in the Qahira neighborhood of Adhamiyah. Anyone who wants a better life---in this life---works for it through their kids.
Posted by: Paul S. at May 27, 2009 8:20 pm
A. We are very lucky to have the likes of Major Humphreys and Captains Looney and Boyes in Iraq at this awkward time.
B. Particularly clarifying was the analogy of the time required for our newly United States to achieve the stage where we had Emancipation proclaimed, and still another one hundred years to see some civil rights become everyday happenings without raised eyebrows, or worse.
C. I still remain a pessimist on Iraq's achieving even a small portion of this type of advance because of the Iraqi's centuries of extreme provincialism are far deeper and far more complex than we European transplants. Our previous European centuries were messy and cruelly violent also, but pale in comparison to what has been published about Iraq. And our European genetics are not nearly so fragmented as the Iraqi's artificially created area under colonialism. The Iraqi's already have two strikes against them.
D. I predict prompt Senior Staff positions for these three American Officers.
E. I thank Michael Totten for his sensible and pragmatic reporting. We are lucky to be able to read it.
Posted by: Morningside at May 28, 2009 12:26 pm
As Morningside points out, the differences between America's birth and the history of the creation called Iraq are numerous. That even seems like an understatement; the adjective "vast" should probably be in there too. But I was prompted anyway to read about the dark days at Valley Forge in America's revolution. Will an Iraqi Washington (or two) emerge, with enough dedicated volunteers to prevail?
Posted by: Paul S. at May 28, 2009 6:13 pm
But pessimists have been proven wrong repeatedly during the last couple of years just as optimists were proven wrong again and again during the first half of the war.
True. I never thought that the Sunnis would hate AQI more than they hated the Shias, but hand it to AQI for setting records in anti-diplomacy. You ask anyone how the larger Sunni-Shia reconciliation project is going, Mike?
But Iraqis like terrorist and insurgent groups even less. Some Americans find this hard to believe, but imagine how you would feel if political extremists exploded themselves at shopping malls in your neighborhood. It would hardly matter what you thought of the local police, you would almost certainly cooperate with them if it got the bombers off the streets and in prison.
Sure, ok. But it's a fragile dynamic. You know that, right? You can do a lot with the population disliking the other guys more than you, but as the other guy dies off, you become the target again.
Posted by: glasnost at May 29, 2009 4:12 am
Glasnost, the drawdown has begun. We have dropped to 12 brigades from 24 brigades. Non US forces have drawn down from 6 brigades to 0 brigades.
There has been a spike in violence against civilians. Attacks against MNF-I remain at record lows.
The only place in Iraq with systematic coordinated attacks against the Iraqi Army is in parts of Mosul (although not in the rest of Ninevah province.) To a far lesser degree there are attacks in small pockets of Baghdad and Diyala. However, these attacks are no longer well coordinated.
Total violent incidents remain down 90% or more from their 2006 peak. {The attacks on civilians are few in number but are causing a lot of civilian casualties per incident.}
Glastnos, one reason for the spike in violence is because the IA is transitioning many population centers to the IP and pulling out. The IP are being tested.
In fact, the IP now manage all security in the large majority of provinces (including the southern 9 provinces, At Tamin, 3 Kurdish provinces, Al Anbar.)
Posted by: anand at May 29, 2009 1:27 pm
Correction to the above. The IP manage all security in 7 of the 9 southern provinces. The IA still plays in important role in al Basrah and Maysan. However, the IP have improved enormously in both provinces and should soon be able to manage all security independently in both provinces. Salahadin province will also soon transition to the IP.
The provinces with significant IA security responsibility are Ninevah, Baghdad and Diyala.
Posted by: anand at May 29, 2009 1:49 pm
There is not really evidence of a spike in violence yet, according to 170 Iraqis have died in May (up to May 28) putting it on track to be the second least viloent month since record keeping began in 2006.
Iraqi deaths in 09 are running at about 10 percent of what they were in 06 and 07.
Posted by: Mike E at May 29, 2009 2:02 pm
Flipping through the Iraq Index, I see that, at least to whatever extent its numbers can be trusted, there isn't as much evidence of a spike as I'd lazily figured there to be. Multiple fatality bombings are up in the last 60 days. The straight civ casualty numbers for April/May aren't in let. Sure, they're way under peak, and I doubt they're headed back to peak, whether we stay or we leave. But it's easy, when thinking of a spike when we leave, to picture the logical counterpart, there *not* being a spike when we *don't* leave. We all have different ideas about whether 5 or 15 or 30% is a "spike", but the point is that violence in April/May is more than likely up from Jan-March, and that it has nothing to do with any withdrawal, because such has not occurred.
I don't see staying as a guarantee of peace.
Posted by: glasnost at May 30, 2009 10:20 am
Glasnost: I don't see staying as a guarantee of peace.
I don't either. I supported the surge and thought withdrawing under fire would have been reckless and dangerous, but I think the US has done about as much as can be reasonably expected at this point. Obama is handling Iraq about right, I'd say, so far. I'm glad he wasn't elected in 2006, though.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 30, 2009 11:19 am
I agree that our staying is not a guarantee of peace...because....(and, I think this has been mentioned earlier)...when the British left during or after the Great Game, and also when the Soviets left there were new vacuums creating newer opportunities for localized slaughter. No doubt earlier centuries' invaders departed leaving vacuums filled by the ethnic/religious conflict du jour. Alexander's armies eventually had to go home. We cannot change this area's historic group-mind-set by our presence and massive amounts of mere money.
America's invasion and removal of Saddam was timely and very efficiently taken care of. Also, there's no need to go into the WMD discussion because I believe most of the world's leading intelligence services thought then that he had them, and Saddam certainly had used the gas weapon. When we got there and decided we'd have to dig up every acre to see where they were buried, that's when the frustration settled in.
At that point it became harder and harder to consolidate our gains. And, here we are today.
Why am I summarizing these well known things here? Because it's inescapable that these things we see now mark the beginning of the end of the use of very large mobilized ground forces in military efforts, along with the mountains of stockpiled materiel needed. I think it's the equivalent of the end of massed bayonet attacks, the end of cavalry attacks, and the end of trench warfare, and the end of massive aerial bombing attacks on urban areas.
We must now concentrate on devastating remotely controlled attacks against our enemies, which will create the long lingering psychological effect of destruction and leadership killing without the presence of occupying forces.
Posted by: Morningside at May 30, 2009 6:33 pm
As impressively effective as remotely controlled technology can be when appropriately deployed, face-to-face local results will decide the long slog against fanaticism's attractions. Knowing that trained protector is on the beat, every day, reassures in ways that hoping the drone shows up again can't.
Someone who has followed psyops may have thoughts, both on today's tech and the in-person factor. Whatever works, at the least cost to the most valuable resources.
Posted by: Paul S. at May 31, 2009 5:27 pm
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