Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Surge: Cause & Effect

This based on an interview by author and retired soldier, Gordon Cucullu, of General Petraeus in Iraq:

Cause – U.S. and Iraqi soldiers permanently manning small unit positions throughout Baghdad and then going through each house in the neighborhood using the "soft knock" – not breaking down doors or forcing entry; but asking to be let in.

Effect – There has been a significant change in trust and attitudes towards the U.S. and Iraqi forces. "Once the people know we are going to be around," – intelligence tips have gone from trickle to fire hose. The forces in Baghdad are now in "information overload."

Effect – According to General Petraeus,"Less than half the al Qaeda leaders who were in Baghdad when this [surge] campaign began are still in the city. They have fled or are being killed or captured. We are attriting them at a fearsome rate." I do not know precisely what a "fearsome rate" translates into in actual numbers – but it sounds absolutely great, doesn’t it.

Cause – From their local bases, the U.S. and Iraqi soldiers have conducted "Operation Safe Markets" to secure gathering places like mosques and marketplaces, including through the use of concrete highway barriers around the vulnerable targets."

Effect – According to General Petraeus, "Car bombings have dropped precipitately - the limited access thwarts them." What is precipitately? I do not know, we will wait for the numbers to come out shortly. The one thing I am sure of, the numbers are not going to support the New York Times thesis of the other day that car bombings are actually thwarting the surge.

Effect: "The marketplaces, including the book market that was targeted for an especially vicious attack, are rebuilding and doing great business. It is helping the local economy enormously to have this kind of protection in place." With jobs plentiful and demand growing, the appeal of militia armies declines proportionally.

Cause: The Rules of Engagement (ROE) that tell our soldiers in what circumstances they can engage the enemy, and in what circumstances they must withhold fire, have been changed and made simpler by General Petraeus.

Rules of engagement (ROE), highly criticized as being too restrictive and sometimes endangering our troops, have been "clarified." "There were unintended consequences with ROE for too long," Petraeus acknowledged. Because of what junior leaders perceived as too harsh punishment meted out to troops acting in the heat of battle, the ROE issued from the top commanders were second-guessed and made more restrictive by some on the ground. The end result was unnecessary - even harmful - restrictions placed on the troops in contact with the enemy.

"I've made two things clear," Petraeus emphasized: "My ROE may not be modified with supplemental guidance lower down. And I've written a letter to all Coalition forces saying 'your chain-of-command will stay with you.' I think that solved the issue."

Effect: There is no way to quantify this. But, as a former infantry company commander, I can promise you that this will improve the morale of all soldiers from private on up and that it will translate into more aggressive and effective action by our soldiers.

As to Anbar Province, the situation is clarifying. The Sunnis in Anbar, who have been since the start of the Iraq war, provided a home base for al Qaeda and Baathist militants, appear to "have had enough."
Not only are the al Qaeda fighters causing civil disruption by fomenting sectarian violence and killing civilians, but on a more prosaic but practical side, al Qaeda is bad for business. "All of the sheiks up there are businessmen," Petraeus said. "They are entrepreneurial and involved in scores of different businesses. The presence of the foreign fighters is hitting them hard in the pocketbook and they are tired of it."

A large hospital project - meant to be one of the largest in the Sunni Triangle - had been put on hold by terrorist attacks when al Qaeda had control of the area. Now it's back on track. So are similar infrastructure projects.

The sheiks have seen that the al Qaeda delivers only violence and misery. They are throwing their lot in with the new government - for example, encouraging their young men to join the Iraqi police force and army. (They are responding in droves.) Petraeus has his troops applying a similar formula in Baghdad's Sadr City.

Read the entire article here. All of this is wonderful news. Given time and the resources necessary to do his job, it may well be that General Petraeus is to the Iraq War what Grant was to the Union Army during the Civil War – the right general, applying the right strategy, at precisely the right moment in history. We can only hope.

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