View Full Version : Time for Iraqis to Take the Lead

01-18-05, 06:17 AM

Time for Iraqis to Take the Lead

By J. David Galland

No population of any country – in the absence of assured protection of life, home and tradition – will support the actions of a foreign military force while that force is fighting an insurgency within the country’s own sovereign borders.

With that said, one can conclude that this is why American forces have lost the support of the Iraqi population and will likely never be able to regain it.

The United States has failed to free the population of Iraq from the intimidating influence of the Sunni insurgents. Short of calling on the off again/on again use of heavy weaponry, which brings the resultant collateral damage to include the deaths and injuries of scores of people, the population remains unconvinced of our ability to prevail.

Arguably, such heavy offensive military actions against the insurgent force are both necessary and justified to meet and defeat the armed threat. They are, nonetheless, counterproductive toward the establishment of the end-state that should not be a body count of enemy fighters but rather the collective security of the Iraqi population.

Regardless of the force ratio mix of indigenous, or externally sympathetic guerrillas, all insurgencies must have the population’s support or, at least, complicity, to assure their survival. To win against the insurgent force the United States and our Iraqi allies must succeed in denying it refuge and assistance. This includes eliminating the potential pool of recruits, including the use of children against Western forces.

Sadly, strategic and tactical military planners from U. S. and coalition forces have not adequately shifted their military operational planning. The focus toward a counterinsurgency strategy, in which pacification of the civilian population is given the priority, is now too late! The narrow window of opportunity to garner indigenous support came and went while the U.S. military pursued its myopic strategic goal of finding, apprehending, or killing Saddam Hussein.

The primary actions to counter the burgeoning insurgency in Iraq should have been directed at securing and protecting the grass-roots population. The main effort should not have focused on hunting down illusive and spectral insurgents. Their capture, largely symbolic and agreeably not insignificant, should have been ancillary to the big picture.

At this point of mission execution, as history will record, the United States and its coalition partners must realize and accept that the current uprising in Iraq can only be overcome – and ultimately defeated by – Iraqi forces under Iraqi leadership. The more rapidly these forces can separate themselves from the U. S. occupational force and seriously reduce their reliance on U.S. involvement, the sooner the problem will be solved.

Military objectives hold obvious importance in Iraq and any other battlefield. When you are being shot at, you shoot back. However, efforts at both civil action and military combat action must be carefully planned in consideration of the short- and long-term goals of each. Neither can be prosecuted separately. There must be a careful coordination of both.

The preponderance of effort must be dedicated to achieving confidence-building political objectives instead of achieving conventional military goals of killing the enemy and seizing the terrain the insurgents once held, as we did in Fallujah in November.

This typifies both the asymmetric nature of the threat that challenges U.S. forces, particularly the need to earn, gain, and maintain both American and Iraqi public support for the war.

The erosion of America’s national will led to its embarrassing evacuation from Vietnam in 1975. The end-state, declared by the United States after concluding that its too-little and too-late attempts at Vietnamization failed can only be seen for what it was: the sacrifice of an entire American army in the dank jungles, paddies, and hillsides of Vietnam.

Today, however, the clear and present threat which faces the American soldiers on the battlefield in Iraq dictates that the national will and war support among the Iraqi population is of a greater priority than even that of our own domestic support for America’s military action.

Both Washington and Baghdad must come to grips with the fact that the on-going, escalating insurgency has a distinct absence of unity of command and battlefield continuity. This insurgency, as it has increasingly emboldened itself, has honed its skill at idiosyncratic asymmetric warfare that is characterized by its unorthodox approach of applying its capabilities.

This is a doctrine, either planned, de-facto, or by happenstance that does not follow the rules. It is close to impossible to plan for and counter as many of the insurgents’ targets hold virtually no military or force-related significance. (For an excellent study of the issue, see “Unorthodox Thoughts about Asymmetric Warfare,” by retired Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs in a 2003 issue of the U.S. Army War College publication, “Parameters”).

As such, the conventional military planner who seeks to establish operational conclusions and thus develop military deployment options, on known or relatively certain paradigms, will find himself hamstrung.

Much of the resultant confusion is largely because of lack of precedent. Similarities between the insurgency in Iraq and those of the Communist and Nationalist insurgencies of the Cold War, are missing. Relying on after-action reports and historic mission analysis could proved to be a deadly mistake on the Iraqi battlefield today.

A more complicated challenge in this particular insurgency is a factor that collectively unites many “otherwise conflicted” factions. Muslim fundamentalist Mujahideen, Shi’ite Extremists, and Ba’athist Remnants, as well as the large majority of the Iraqi people, are growing united in their overwhelming desire to drive the culturally ignorant American forces out of their country and the region overall.

Ironically, many experts now say that if Washington can rapidly diminish its involvement in Iraq, in all quarters it is likely that the insurgency itself will falter in influence and substance.

But make no mistake: This goal will not be accomplished by merely conducting a free-appearing election on Jan. 30. There is more that must be done!

The Iraqi government must capitalize on the long-standing divisions between the insurgent factions and their established historic loyalties. Legitimization of some factions in Iraq, and the careful effort of bringing them to the table and into the political mainstream within Iraqi circles, would then separate the most violent insurgent cells, meeting the tactical goal of forcing them into less-effective compartmentalized factions.

This effort will restrict the ability of the insurgent force to destabilize, strike fear, and influence the population. Inducements to fracture the insurgency further should include a promise of amnesty to those who are serious about their future role in the governing of Iraq.

It is critically important that the Iraqi national elections be held with all available integrity. Iraq must then take control of Iraq and the will of the population must prevail.

J. David Galland is Deputy Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at defensewatch02@yahoo.com. Please send Feedback responses to dwfeedback@yahoo.com.