How We Lost the Peace in Iraq

Regardless of what the current US administration and Senior Military Officers claim, we have lost the peace in Iraq.  The current Iraqi government is fully supported by and responsive to the Iranians. For example, ministries within the Iraqi Government have placed Iranians in key security positions;  The Prime Minister and members of the Iraqi Parliament routinely travel to Iran to consult with them on internal Iraqi issues.  It has been reported that some Iraqi Parliament Members and Iraqi Ministers have taken bribes from Hezbollah.  Additionally, it has been reported that some Parliament Members were briefed by and were told by senior Hezbollah members that once the US Military was out of Iraq, that anyone that was a threat to Iran must be killed.  They reportedly agreed to this Iranian mandate.

The fact that the Iraqi Administration clearly wanted the US military out of Iraq, indicates that the Iraqi Government is only waiting until they have a free hand to revert to sectarian assaults on the Sunni and Kurds. The Status of Forces agreement that was the hang-up for US Forces remaining in Iraq was not approved, although it is a common agreement in every country in which we place US Forces.  If the negotiated agreement is  something that the Iraqis don’t want to happen, rather than tell you no, they will  find one item that the other side will not concede and hold a hard line on it.  Thus, making the negotiations fail.  We used to call this negotiation tactic the “Iraqi Slow Roll.”  This deliberate effort to make the negotiations fail is what happened with our Status of Forces agreement.

Yes, we lost the peace in Iraq and I fully expect in the next few months to see massive sectarian violence occur with large numbers of casualties in the population.  It’s “get even time” for the Shia.  A warrant for the arrest of the Sunni Vice President was issued by Maliki the day after the last American Military was out of Iraq.  I’ve heard a number of Iraqi Military express that Iraq needs a Strong Man to run the country.  This Strong Man would be similar to Saddam Hussein except a Shia rather than a Sunni.  Once again, our political machine has failed, compared to the Iranians.  However, none of the combatants will submit without a fight, therefore, I expect to see a bloodbath over the next year involving all the people of Iraq.  The civil war has begun.

This paper expresses my frustration and even anger with the results of the Iraqi conflict and not winning the peace.  However, it’s intent is to identify the mistakes we made in Iraq and present solutions to prevent them from happening in the next unconventional war we undertake.  My perspective is based on almost three years of service in Iraq. My three assignments in Iraq was in the beginning, the middle and at the end of the conflict and of having spent twenty years in Special Operations, focusing on unconventional warfare with service in Viet-Nam as a member of a Special Forces A-team.  After serving three tours in Iraq as a civilian with a military history of specializing in unconventional warfare, I finally departed Iraq in October 2011, with a bitter sense of failure for the effort.  Our Iraqi experience ended unsuccessfully for those 4500+ military and the many US civilians that “gave their all” to win this conflict.  My anger is because the Iraq conflict did not have to end the way it has.  Had we managed the conflict differently in the beginning, we could now be viewed as a partner in their economic and political development rather than an occupier being asked to leave.  As stated by Colonel Mansoor in his book Baghdad at Sunrise; “In short, counterinsurgency is a thinking soldier’s war.  It requires the counterinsurgent to adapt faster than the insurgent, and therefore requires an effective system for gathering, evaluating, and disseminating lessons learned.  A failure to adapt inevitably means defeat.”[1] After the VN conflict, the US has become viewed by the rest of the world as not having the ability to successfully fight and win a unconventional conflict.  In the 1970s, the unconventional warfare “lessons learned” in the VN conflict were deliberately forgotten and the documentation filed away never to be resurrected.  It has been claimed by some that the military deliberately destroyed much of the documented lessons learned from the VN conflict.[2]  Our performance in Iraq has proven the World to be correct in that we cannot successfully engage and win an unconventional conflict, because the American Politicians and Public cannot tolerate extended wars.

In 2003, the US Military along with their allies took Iraq from a numerically superior foe in the shortest time and with fewer causalities than any conflict in history.  This previously unheard of feat was due to the superior technology, better individual training and the ability of the conventional leaders to focus their war making synergy to specific objectives.  Nowhere in history has an army this small defeated an army four times its’ size in such a short time with so few causalities.

The purpose of this paper is not to criticize the conventional military, because they have proven that they can decisively win a conventional conflict with a numerically superior foe.  The purpose is however, to identify the mistakes we made in wining the peace and to present some solutions for those shortcomings. The below shortcomings, and possible solutions are a direct result of the author’s personal observations and discussions between the author and US officers and Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) and previous Iraqi Army and Air Force officers and NCOs over the course of three assignments in Iraq.  Having witnessed US military operations, tactics and the development and implementation of US policies and procedures towards Iraq, the author has reached the following conclusions of why we have lost the peace in Iraq.

Although the senior military and civilian leaders know how to focus conventional military skills and capabilities against a conventional foe, they are at a loss when the conflict morphs into an unconventional war, as has been demonstrated over the past eight (8) years in Iraq.

We have only been successful in a unconventional conflict when it has been managed by unconventional personnel. The El Salvador conflict was managed successfully by Special Forces personnel with very little conventional military involvement.

Many of us remember in the early days of the Iraq conflict when Secretary Rumsfeld repeatedly used the term, “winning the hearts and minds” of the Iraqi people.  He was recognizing that this was the key element for winning an unconventional war.  Because we instinctively recognize this term as correct and necessary for winning unconventional conflicts, we tend to assume that the person using the term also knows what actions to take and how to win the “hearts and minds” of the Iraqi population.  Nothing is further from the truth, as demonstrated by US actions, policies, and procedures undertaken in Iraq.  For many, this statement of  “winning hearts and minds” is nothing more than a “buzz phrase or cliché” that sounds good and leads the listener to assume that the speaker knows how to win the hearts and minds.  The top US civilian and military leaders in Iraq have demonstrated that they have no clue of how to actually accomplish this.  Until we as a nation (senior military and civilian leaders) can define and implement the conditions, tactics, policies and procedures which are necessary to “winning the hearts and minds”, we will continue to “lose the peace” in future similar conflicts.  This paper is designed to help identify and develop some of those conditions, tactics, policies and procedures and present them in the form of “lessons learned” so that we have a higher probability of “winning the peace” in future unconventional conflicts.

It is unrealistic to think that we will not encounter other similar situations as the developing world seems to embrace the concept of unconventional warfare to confront the major powers.  As a nation, we can expect to confront unconventional warfare in the future and we must be prepared to confront it using the best possible conditions, tactics, policies and procedures.

Because of the complexity of unconventional warfare and the many terms used to describe the different elements, participants and motivations of unconventional warfare, I have chosen, with a few exceptions, to use “conventional” and “unconventional” as generic terms throughout this document.

Establishing Conditions to Win the Peace

Once the conventional war was won, we should have started transitioning into a military organization to win the peace.  It is unreasonable to expect the same soldier that fought a conventional war to immediately make a mental transition to peacekeeper or adopt an unconventional warfare mindset with all the associated skill sets.  Excellent unconventional warriors take years to train and develop.  In 2003, we began an approach to the conflict with conventional military mind sets that would lose the peace and be impossible to turn around after the first couple of years.

In future unconventional conflicts, we must insure that the senior civilian and military commanders work together as a team with a common game plan to win the conflict.  They must understand and support the role that unconventional forces play in unconventional conflicts and allow the unconventional forces to perform that roll.  Likewise, we must transition from conventional military leadership to unconventional leadership immediately after winning the conventional war.

One conventional commander that seemed to have the best grasp of unconventional warfare in Iraq is Colonel Peter R. Mansoor, who commanded the Ready First Combat Team (1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division and its attachments) from July 2003 until September 2004.  In his book “Baghdad at Sunrise,” he clearly states and/or implies many of the concepts I identify in this document.  I believe that had he been supported to the extent needed, he could have had a much greater impact on the positive outcome of winning the hearts and mindes.

The policy of maintaining unconventional warfare mission assignments for the conventional military must be changed to allow Special Operational Forces (SOF) to assume overall command and operational control of the unconventional conflict.  The concept of having the conventional military conduct and manage the unconventional aspect of the conflict is flawed to the point of being unworkable.  For example, conventional military personnel are trained and expected to confront all conventional enemies of America and to overcome any resistance (as they should) using massive military force.  However, the unconventional military (Special Forces (SF) and other Special Operations Force (SOF) personnel are trained to look beyond the obvious and search for causes for the resistance and for solutions that will reduce the local populations support to the unconventional (enemy) combatants and increase their support for the friendly forces.   US Special Forces are trained to work with the indigenous personnel so that they do not feel or have a need to attack the allied forces or to support its enemies.  This is not to say that we should not confront the enemy whenever and wherever they attack us, but to look for solutions to convince the population that they should support us rather than the enemy.  A multi-front effort must be undertaken to address the tactical, political, individual, criminal and tribal issues to gain the support of the local population.  The political, individual, criminal and tribal issues are traditionally beyond the scope of conventional military training and thinking.  Our culture has demanded that political and religious issues be kept from the military and reserved as the domain for our politicians and religious leaders.  Likewise, the individual and criminal issues are the domain of the police and social workers in our culture.  We must develop unconventional warriors that are well versed in and can influence indigenous personnel in all these areas of interest.

Unconventional warfare most often requires a softer approach when dealing with these local nationals.  The conventional military tend to use a “heavy handed” approach when working with the indigenous personnel.  I have a saying that “when conventional Armor, Infantry or Artillery Officers command unconventional warfare, they look for big gun solutions to little gun problems.” In Iraq this resulted in a heavy handed approach by the conventional military and also by some of the SOF[3] who lost sight of winning the hearts and minds of the people, in the quest for the “high value targets.”

A better mission assignment for the convention military would have been to pull them to the Iraqi borders to stop or reduce the infiltration of weapons, equipment, financial support and personnel to the enemy unconventional combatants and to provide the security for the logistics support required by all the US units.  Additionally, assign the overall responsibility for the unconventional war to a unconventional officer and have unconventional teams spread throughout the country to live with and interface daily with the local population. This concept is directly contrary to military doctrine that says the ranking officer is in charge and all friendly forces must be behind T-walls.  In unconventional or SOF operations, we must place the officer in command that is most knowledgeable of the situation and that is most likely to assure a successful unconventional conflict conclusion.  We must also allow unconventional personnel to interface daily with the indigenous personnel at all levels of their society.

The US Army must begin to recruit, train, and develop more unconventional warriors in preparation for future unconventional conflicts.  The US conventional military underestimated the extent of the Iraqi conflict and the resources needed to win the peace from the beginning.  The military planning for the activities to follow the conventional war was poor to nonexistent.  We must develop the capability to fully plan responses to unconventional warfare and be prepared to exercise those responses.  Contingency plans must be developed to address the unconventional aspect, should the conventional war morph into unconventional war.  Since it takes years to fully develop unconventional warriors, we should start this effort immediately.  As stated earlier, the US Army currently has a “mix” problem, in that we need more unconventional forces.  Our unconventional army must be at least 2/3 the size of the conventional army and the Chief of Staff of the Army and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must not remain the sole domain of the conventional military.

We should also have fully engaged the tribal sheikhs, both Sunni and Shia, early in the conflict.  Saddam Hussein knew that to govern Iraq without the help of the tribal sheikhs was impossible.  The tribal system has existed for hundreds of years and the approach we took overlooked or ignored this valuable resource.  Rather than try to overlay our political system on the Iraqis, we should have worked with the tribal sheikhs to gain their ideas, address their concerns and allow them to form a government that did not challenge their established system or their authority.  Even Saddam, at the height of his power, worked with the tribal sheikhs to gain their support or to reduce their negative effect on his administration.  The vacuum we created with the tribal sheikhs directly reflected on our inability to conduct “nation building” operations and successfully conduct unconventional warfare.  We could have insisted that the new government include a couple of important items, such as “Rule of Law” and “Elections” into their government.  The tribal sheikhs could have and would have accepted these conditions and incorporated them into their form of government.  We should have developed Iraqi local oversight and/or planning committees to help in the decision making process to govern the local nationals, at all levels of their culture.  These groups could have worked closely with the tribal sheikhs to coordinate and recommend solutions to the local problems.

Most of the support for the enemy combatants was provided directly or indirectly by the tribal sheikhs.  Because of our marginalizing them and because of their fear of lost of face, financial and political status in their society, we indirectly encouraged them to support the enemy combatants.  We failed to recognize the control that the tribal sheikhs hold over their tribes.  They had been excluded from fully participating in the new Iraqi Government, a catastrophic error that led them into the arms of the insurgency.  Additionally, we did not recognize that the tribes are made up of all ethnic groups in Iraq.  Although a tribe may be predominantly Sunni, they also have Shia and Kurds within their tribes, as do the Shia tribes have Sunni and Kurds in theirs.  At the tribal level the population of Iraq could be controlled and won over to support the Allies, if we had properly engaged the tribal sheikhs.  All Iraqis belong to one of the 150[4] identifiable tribes in Iraq and none of them would have taken up arms against the Allies without the tribal sheikhs’ permission.  There are approximately 30 mainstream and influential tribes that should have been included in determining and establishing the government of Iraq.  The Americans, mostly from ignorance, treated the sheikhs with huge disrespect.  Things started to fall apart, because when someone disrespects the sheikhs, they will fight for their respect and honor.  Eventually, the US started to communicate with the Sunni Tribal Sheikhs who decided that the US actions in Iraq was less violent towards the Sunni Tribes than Al-Qaeda actions.  This led to “the Awakening” of the Sunni tribes that began supporting the Allies and led to the vast reduction of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.  Had we taken this approach with all the tribes in Iraq, early in the conflict, the end result would have been much different.

In June of 2003, I hired around 50 local nationals (Sunni) to provide security for our company facilities and personnel in Baghdad and to provide executive protection to company VIPs when they visited on official business.  Not knowing whom I could trust, I met with a Sunni Tribal Sheikh and explained my situation and what I needed.   He assured me that if I hired his people that their loyalty would be in the following order; to him, to Allah, and then to me.  When I first met the provided Iraqi security personnel, I explained to them my rules, expectations, and conditions under which they would work.  I asked if any of them had a problem with those rules/conditions and none did.  I asked them to swear loyalty to their tribal sheikh, Allah, the company and to me, which they did.  Knowing that if the company and myself were included in the same oath of loyalty as the tribal sheikh and Allah, that the oath would be taken seriously and followed.  If this approach had been taken in each city, town, and village in Iraq, with the Iraqi military and police forces, it would have made a great difference in controlling the local population and reducing attacks against the US forces.

Over the next 16 months while living and working out of the Sheraton Hotel in Baghdad, I never had a problem with any of the local security force and never had a reason to questioned whether I could trust them.  They were responsible to protect me, my staff and the company VIPs.  This was the first time in Iraq that an American Company had used Iraqis in armed security positions for protection of company personnel and property.  Nothing was ever stolen, lost and not a single one of our personnel for which this security force was responsible was injured due to enemy actions during this 16 months.  They would also warn me of times and areas I should avoid.  They explained that they had heard rumors on the street of pending attacks on US forces or against US contractors in those areas.  The US military and other US civilian security personnel were continuously advising me against using Iraqis for security, “because you can’t trust them.”  Yet, they sat in their protected camps and did not interface with the Iraqis on a daily basis.  Therefore, they did not know that under the right conditions with the right agreements and leadership, most Iraqis could be trusted.  This trustworthiness changed after we placed our personnel behind “T”-walls that effectively cut off any communications with the Iraqi people that would allow us to establish relationships to win their hearts and minds.

In late 2003, the Sadr Mahdi Army (Shia) started attacking American Forces.  The Iraqi security force personnel advised me that the American Forces should arrest or eliminate Sadr because otherwise he would continue to attack Americans as long as we were in Iraq.  I stated that we did not conduct assassinations, as they were suggesting.  However, in hindsight, I wish that we had done so, since he has been from the beginning, the biggest foe we have had in Iraq.  His militia and affiliated elements have killed more Americans than any other group in Iraq.  The current Iraqi Government (Shia) is unwilling or unable to effectively control him and stop his attacks on American Forces.  Yet, they spend 80% of their effort attacking the Sunni Resistance Elements which conduct about 25% of the attacks in Iraq, of which most are against the Iraqi Government.  The Shia Resistance Elements conduct about 70% of the attacks in Iraq with most being directed against the Allied Forces.  The American forces are unwilling to confront Sadr to either kill or capture him.  Meanwhile, Sadr moves around Iraq and Iran with impunity.  He is fully supported by the Iranians and the current Maliki government (Shia) and continues his attacks as the Americans are withdrawing from Iraq. He will likely claim success in militarily forcing the Americans to withdraw from Iraq.  This claim will be to make himself look strong to the Iraqi people and self aggrandizement, while making it appear that we were beaten militarily.  If successful, he will gain even more power in Iraq and Iraqi politics.

Since successful unconventional warfare is dependent on wining the hearts and minds of the population, a soft approach must be used whenever and wherever possible.  It is all about establishing relationships between the Americans and the local population at all levels and not just the higher level, as the US leadership appear to have tried, while preventing relationships from being established at the lower levels.  Unconventional Warriors establish relationships with the “man on the street”, shop owners, construction workers, bus drivers and anyone else with whom they interface.  This is an essential function if we ever expect to win their hearts and minds. 

In the early days, I witnessed many times the effectiveness of the American Soldiers working as diplomats between the Americans and the Iraqi people.  Although he or she did not fully realize what they were doing or their effect; I could see the Iraqi people communicating and the children playing games (such as the children’s game of paper, rock, and scissors) with them and the mutual respect and trust that they were developing for each other.  Some children even brought their parents to meet their new American friends, and some of the parents began giving information to the soldiers about bad guys in their neighborhoods.  The young American SF Soldier is the best diplomat we can provide to interface with the Iraqi population.  This interface evolves into trust and eventually reliance and mutual respect.  However, this was not allowed to continue in Iraq as a matter of US policy.  Eventually, all Americans were kept behind “T”-walls and not allowed outside except to conduct essential missions and take-down operations, which only allowed interface with the local population to the extent they were involved in or were a target of the operation.  In later years, the majority of the Iraqi population only saw Americans when we were attacking someone in their neighborhood or when we ran them off the street, as we were aggressively moving from place to place. Relationships are established between people who talk and interact on a regular basis.  The American Soldier cannot interact from behind T-walls, therefore trust and personal relationships cannot develop, nor can we win their hearts and minds.  When the senior leaders only interact with Iraqi senior leaders, they cannot win the hearts and minds of the average Iraqi citizen.  To win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, it takes many people interfacing on many levels to make the impact needed in a society.

In 2003 there was no reason to use the heavy handed approach in dealing with the local population.  In the early days, there was very little enemy activity and the American Civilians and Military moved around Iraq with few attacks.  As a mater of routine, I could and did drive all over Baghdad and to outlying cities/towns such as South to Al Hillah and North to Tikrit in soft cars with no security escorts.  That was the time in which we should have pulled the conventional military back to the borders and assigned security missions for them.  We should have placed an SOF officer overall in charge of the unconventional effort with SOF teams spread throughout the cities and countryside to win the hearts and minds of the local population.  In such a case, it is essential that the SOF teams be supported by military and civilian intelligence and psychological operations organizations as well as life support and transportation capabilities.  In unconventional conflicts, the conventional military must play a much smaller and supportive role, provide support to the unconventional forces and provide the overall security for the logistical support and key facilities of national importance.  Much of this can be accomplished by using the current Iraqi military and police forces rather than dismissing them as was the case in Iraq.

Likewise, in the early days of the Afghanistan conflict, there was little enemy activity directed against the US military.  It wasn’t until the massive buildup of American Conventional forces that it exploded into numerous enemy attacks against us.  In the early days of Afghanistan, the US military consisted mostly of SOF personnel, US Government Civilians and their support elements.  When combat operations were conducted to capture or eliminate enemy combatants, the SOF team would interface with the village elders after the operation, to explain why it was necessary to arrest or eliminate the individual enemy combatants.  The team would then provide something the village needed such as a new well, school, or something else that would benefit the entire village.  There were cases of village elders walking two and three days to the SOF camp to report enemy combatants that had moved into their village and to request that the SOF team come and remove them. 

When the conventional US military deployed to Afghanistan, the SOF teams identified the villages that were working with them to eliminate the enemy combatants and requested that the conventional military use a soft approach when dealing with these villages.  In most cases, this request was ignored and the heavy hand approach was used.  One such example that was relayed to the author by an SOF NCO was that the conventional forces ignored the request for a soft approach and went into the village and turned each house “upside down” in their search for weapons or other enemy equipment or materials.  The village never worked with the SOF team after that and became a center for enemy activity.   

By the time I returned to Iraq in 2006 and 2007 the opportunity to address this conflict properly by winning hearts and minds was past and we were locked into the current hostile situation.  The window of opportunity to take the different approach would not have been possible after the first two years.  The further we pushed into this time frame with the conventional mindset, the more difficult it became to reverse the direction the conflict was taking.  Therefore, in future we must make this transition to the unconventional controlled approach immediately after the conventional war is concluded. The sooner the transition can occur, the more likely of a successful conclusion.

If we had taken the actions to create an environment for success, changed the command of the conflict from conventional to unconventional, modified our policies, procedures and engaged the tribal sheikhs early in the conflict, they could and would have established the conditions and environment for winning their hearts and minds and thus, having a higher probability for winning the peace.

Early US Tactics Encouraged Conflict

The major operation the enemy combatants conducted against the Allies in 2003 and 2004 was the personnel ambush of supply convoys.  The US “Rules of Engagement” (ROE) for these attacks was to “break contact and continue the mission.”  Additionally, until the middle of 2004 the supply convoys were only assigned a military escort placed at the front and another at the rear of the convoy.  These escorts consisted of a single military vehicle with three or four lightly armed military personnel.  These convoys regularly consisted of up to one hundred tractor-trailer type vehicles.  The convoys would be stretched out for up to and sometimes beyond 5 miles.  This effort of protecting convoys was only paying “lip service” to the contractual requirement that the convoys be provided military protection.  Communications was not initially established between the convoy vehicles and the military escorts.  Many attacks occurred without the military escorts knowing that an attack had occurred until the next stop when the drivers of the supply vehicles would notify the military escorts or the rear military escort came upon the disabled vehicles and/or dead drivers.  Because of the ROE and remoteness of the escorts to the main body of the convoy, most enemy attacks were not addressed by the escorts.  No fire was returned to the attackers.  This lack of confrontation of the attackers encouraged them to attack and allowed them to attack with impunity.

In mid 2004, the ROE was changed and we began placing a military escort every 5th or 6th vehicle within the convoy and started confronting (returning fire) the enemy attacks.  At this time the enemy reduced their personnel ambushes of the American Convoys.  They then began mostly using Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) to attack the convoys and other military and civilian targets.  This terrorist[5] tactic allowed them to attack with a higher level of survivability.  These enemy tactics and techniques are still being used at the end of the conflict, although they have added rockets, supplied mostly by Iran and some other surrounding countries, as an additional technique.  In the future, it must be military policy that ROEs be developed and employed to effectively confront the enemy. We must insist that enemy combatants be confronted whenever and wherever they attack us.  They must never be given a “pass” when conducting attacks as was the case in 2003 and midway through 2004.

This lack of determined response to enemy attacks encouraged their continued attacks and communicated our reluctance to fully confront them.  This lack of response also projected the idea to the Iraqi people that the terrorists or unconventional combatants were more powerful than they actually were and thus encouraged the Iraqi people to support them.  It wasn’t until mid 2004 that we finally became serious in confronting the unconventional enemy.  However, by this time we were already sliding toward losing the peace.

In 2007, and once the insurgency had progressed to this point, the next best tactic was to conduct the much publicized “surge.”  At this point, the surge was the most appropriate tactic for the insurgency.  The surge took and held areas with soldiers that not only confronted the enemy, but allowed them to interface with the local nationals in the contested areas.  This effort if allowed to continue could have produced positive and lasting results.  Again, our short sighted political and military leaders cut the effort short and stopped long before lasting effects could occur.  I do agree with General Sanchez when he stated that “The best we can do with this flawed approach is to stave off defeat.”[6]  The entire allied effort after 2005 was to “starve off defeat”, not to win the peace.

Interface with the Local Population

Much has already been discussed in this paper concerning interfacing with the local population, but it is the key element to winning the unconventional conflict.  A clear understanding of the concept must be understood before we can expect to appropriately address the unconventional conflict. 

Currently American Soldiers are not allowed to freely interface with the Iraqi population.  We have spent Billions of dollars on T-walls to protect the Americans, but which in reality separates the Americans from the Iraqis.  This has effectively killed any effort to interface with the Iraqi population and win their hearts and minds.  During the early days, Americans manned checkpoints and performed other duties that allowed for daily interface with the local nationals. They could talk to and otherwise establish relationships with the local population, which allowed a free flow of discussions and ideas to be expressed.  Even basic discussions of democracy and how it could influence the Iraqi population could be discussed.  In our own development of democracy, our forefathers developed the “Federalist Papers” to better communicate and foster discussions about democracy, our constitution and its’ advantages.  Why would we think that the Iraqi people would need anything less?  In Baghdad at Sunrise, Colonel Mansoor stated, “in an insurgency-or, for that mater, in a counterinsurgency-the people are not the means to achieve the objective, they are the objective.” [7]

The soldiers and US civilians are kept behind T-walls that surround each of the American camps and are not allowed to leave except on missions that generally doesn’t allow free interface with local nationals.  The military commanders will offer a number of reasonable explanations for these restrictions, that range from the safety of the soldier, security for the soldier, and lack of need for the soldier to be outside the camp.  However, these same restrictions prevent the critical need to win the hearts and minds from occurring and thus loosing the peace.  The underlying reason for this restriction is that commanders will suffer a career setback if they experienced casualties.  The officers go to great lengths to prevent their soldiers from realizing injuries.  Although this is commendable on one level, it hinders the accomplishment of the mission on another.  This puts us mainly in a defensive role, which no army has ever won a war by being only defensive.  By not allowing our soldiers to openly interface with the Iraqis at all levels, we destroy the chance of winning hearts and minds and the unconventional conflict.  We should establish rules for conduct when interfacing with the public and when those are violated, punish the guilty, but don’t try to make one set of restrictive rules fit all situations and personnel. 

That being the case, there are other situations that could be arranged to allow the soldier to interface with the local population and to develop those personal relationships and hold discussions, while maintaining a level of security/protection for themselves.  For example we could conduct random foot patrols within certain areas of the cities and towns to allow the interface with local nationals, just as the Israelis do in Jerusalem.  Assign each squad a section of town to patrol and have the same personnel conduct the patrols so that personal relationships can occur between the soldier and the Iraqi people.  Encourage the patrols to talk to and otherwise interface with the local nationals to form trusting and lasting relationships.  Eventually, relationships would form and I submit that it would result in a more secure city/town and in the long run produce fewer US casualties and help win the peace.

Managing the Iraqi Military and Police

In 2003, CPA issued order #2 which completely disbanded the Iraqi Military and Police, which “set the stage” for the former Iraqi military and police becoming heavily engaged in unconventional warfare directed at the US and Allied forces.  Immediately after the conventional conflict was completed, CPA discharged all Iraqi military and police personnel.  This was a major mistake.  The allied forces were totally unprepared for the massive effort that would be required to function as both the Iraqi military and police forces.  Considering that the police force in the four largest US cities are equivalent to the total number of allied soldiers in Iraq, yet the US military was expected to not only perform the military functions but the police functions as well.  It was never realistic to expect the 150,000 Allied Soldiers to perform both the duties of the Iraqi military and police.  On top of all of this, the US soldiers were expected and committed by contract to provide security for the contractors that were supporting the US military with administrative and life support functions and to guard the key points of infrastructure.  This clearly overcommitted the military forces and assured that glaring gaps would remain in Iraqi security.

What should have happened, was to remove the top 2 or 3 layers of command in both the Iraqi military and police, identify potential replacements from the next layer of command and allow them to continue performing their duties with strong US military oversight.  This is a conservation of forces concept that would have freed up an estimated 2/3 of the Allied forces to conduct more appropriate missions.  There would have been some of those commanders that would eventually have to be replaced, but it could have been accomplished on a case by case basis.  Any additional training the Iraqi military or police forces would have needed could have been conducted as rewards for performance and motivation for loyalty.  This policy would also have had the benefit of having the police and military that was totally knowledgeable of the areas and personnel within those areas.  They would know when foreign fighters moved into the neighborhood and be able to quickly identify and remove them from the situation, a problem that we struggle with even today.

The decision to totally dismiss the Iraqi military and police forces served to encourage these personnel to conduct unconventional warfare against the allied forces.  The decision to dismiss these personnel was exactly the wrong decision at the wrong time.  Many of the unconventional combatants are paid to conduct attacks against the allied forces to earn money to support their families.  It was common knowledge that Saddam Hussein’s daughter in Jordan was offering $10,000.00 dollars for each attack on the allied forces.  Although, this was common knowledge, we took no action to eliminate or marginalize her.  Most of the old Iraqi Military and Police Forces would have been happy to resume their former duties and would have done so in a supportive manner for the Americans.  The personnel that had the training and had the capability to conduct those attacks became unemployed and had to make the choice of becoming an enemy combatant or watch while their families starve.  When large numbers of personnel with military or police training become unemployed, should we be surprised when they do what they are trained to do, exercise civil disobedience or become enemy combatants?  If the US was occupied by a foreign military force and our military and police forces were placed out of work, what choices would they make?  I would fully expect them to resist the foreign occupiers.

Summary

Crap happens in war and the friendly forces do not always win every action. Therefore, senior military officers, government civilians and politicians must learn to accept the situation without necessarily crucifying the officer in charge.  In short, accept losses on the battlefield without judging the involved officers and NCOs as being incompetent and destroying their careers.  In those cases where they are clearly incompetent, I fully support getting them out of the chain of command.  But we must be very carful in this process so that we don’t also kill the “will” of commanders to be innovative and aggressive.  When the fault for a situation is not clear, we must error on the side of the individual officer and NCO.

The concepts presented in this document fly in the face of current and historical military doctrine, policies, regulations and procedures.  However, if we are to win the future unconventional conflict, we must be capable of quickly transforming the military force from a conventional to an unconventional force with all the associated support functions and chain of command capable of effectively addressing unconventional warfare. 

In order to establish interface with and win the hearts and minds of the local population, we must allow and nurture individual communications to occur and relationships to develop.  We cannot continue to treat our soldiers as children that are not trustworthy to interface with the local population, because of a few “bad apples.”  If we can treat our soldiers as responsible adults, they for the vast majority will respond in kind.  Therefore, allow their interface with the local population to win their hearts and minds, thus the unconventional conflict.

The “T”-walls which on one hand prevented the process of winning the hearts and minds, came into being because senior officers and politicians were not willing to take the risk of losing American lives.  I am convinced that more lives were lost because we did not allow that interface with the local nationals.  The politicians and senior military officers must come to an understanding that during war, there will be lost American lives and they must determine what they are willing to accept, before becoming engaged in conflict.  They must also be willing to provide the numbers of soldiers necessary to successfully confront the unconventional enemy.  It is estimated that to successfully control and interface with the population, the friendly police forces must be a ratio of 200 to 250 personnel to each one hundred thousand population.  This 70,000 estimate is based on a normal society, not in a war zone.  In a war zone, this number should double to approximately 140,000 police.  Most of these could have been gotten from the old Iraqi Police Forces, had the CPA not disbanded them in the beginning.

An unconventional war is by its nature, a war of wills.  The US must have the will to engage enemy combatants for long periods of time as we struggle to win the hearts and minds of the indigenous personnel.  The US must be prepared to address a number of social, economic, political, security and religious issues.  These are time consuming efforts that are measured in years and decades rather than months.  As Colonel Mansoor stated in his book “Baghdad at Sunrise,” “One sure way to lose, however, is to forfeit the struggle by quitting the field prematurely.”[8]  If the politicians, senior officers and American public cannot accept the extended time necessary to win the unconventional war and the natural process of loosing soldiers in war, then they must not get us involved in the conflict.


[1] Baghdad at Sunrise – Colonel Peter R. Mansoor – Reflections, Page 345

[2] Baghdad at Sunrise – Colonel Peter R. Mansoor – Reflections, Page 345

[3] Special Operational Forces (SOF):  By definition these forces specialize in conducting direct action missions, train local national military or Insurgents and work with friendly combatants, physiological operations,  aviation operations, intelligence and civil affairs.  There is an overlap of capabilities and operations between most of these forces, but they mostly stay within their designated areas of expertize.  Of the different SOF forces, US Army Special Forces is the one organization that has the most experience in coordinating operations, conducting training of friendly host nations forces and/or insurgents, conducting limited direct action operations using conservation of force concepts, and influencing the political environment of their immediate areas of interest.  On a national level, Special Forces form fusion cells to coordinate the SOF operations, intelligence collection and dissemination, physiological operations, civic action projects and the needed support functions.

[4] Wikipedia: – Tribes of Iraq

[5] Terrorists: The enemy combatants in Iraq fully meet and deserve the term terrorists since they do not meet the conditions that are internationally recognized to declare them insurgents or guerrillas.  The enemy combatants fully meet the descriptive of terrorist, however, elements of their resistance would also meet the definition of insurgent and guerrilla.  Terrorists on the other hand routinely use weapons of mas-destruction against the opposing forces and civilians alike.  Their objective and tactics are designed to create massive destruction and death to shock the public and government officials into making decisions and changing operations, procedures and policies to accommodate the terrorists objectives and demands. They do not follow the rules of land warfare and therefore are not recognized by nor given the protection of the Geneva Convention

 

[6] Wikipedia: - Sanchez Quotes

[7] “Baghdad at Sunrise” – Colonel Peter R. Mansoor – Reflections, Page 343

[8] Baghdad at Sunrise – Colonel Peter R. Mansoor – Reflections, Page 342.

 

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Comments

Mr Jones,

You lost me early and then you never regained my trust. The simple fact is that I think that you missed the risk equation. There is a popular risk equation that says that if the soldiers take more risk that they will earn more confidence from the local population and will be better able to win their "hearts and minds" the second configuration of this is that is the soldiers take more rish and expose themselves then the insurgeants won't attack innocent civilians but will instead concentrate on attacking only the soldiers. Both are totally unsupportable and totally wrong. A similar argument was made that the insurgeants would stop their attacks if the Americans were gone. This has proven to be totally false as have the other too. The insurgeants target the local population because they want to target the local population, not due to frustration at not being able to vent on soldiers a need that is created by the presence of soldiers.

One of the key weaknesses of your argument is that there is no argument that can be made by the army or any of its officers that a soldier should take an un-neccessary risk. None, the argument can not be made that exposing themselved to harm without any gain will help win the struggle. In fact the contrary is true that the way to win is to minimize risk. I think it is better for our efforts if the insurgents are very frustrated because they can not hurt our troops and I think the better path to the hearts and minds of the locals is to show that our troops are invulnerable to anything that the insurgeants might do. A dead or hurt soldier is a propaganda victory for the insurgents, no one notices other than the insurgents how much risk the soldiers exposed themselves to to get to the point where their are dead and injured soldiers.

There are however foolish people who accept these false arguments as valid because they don't understand the situation. The people who accept these false arguments should be removed from our military because they needlessly risk their own lives and the lives of the people trusted to them and they do so by showing bad logic and embracing arguments that give comfort to our adversaries and endanger our missions.

People get confused over why we had to move out into the communities and be among the people. It was not to increase our risk levels it was actually to lower our risk levels , not by exposing ourselves, not by being seen to expose ourselves but instead to be in a position where we could increase our intelligence information gathering ability.

Here ia a basic quiz for you. There is a place in the road where an IED had been detonated. How would you answer the IED threat? Do you lock yourself up in a big FOB? Do you switch to driving MRAPs? Or do you keep that spot under observation and try to enlist the local population to help you keep that spot under observation? My choice is to increaase the observation and intelligence for that location. No where in there would I increase the risk to me or my soldiers. I can increase the observation and intelligence gathering without risking anyone, because I will do a risk assessment and I will identify and reduce as best I can the risks. I'm still going to wear an IBA, I'm still going to wear a helmet, I'm still going to use a force protection package that is suited to the local environment. I'm not going to remove T-walls, I'm going to build them, I'm going to use the T-walls to protect my troops and my friends in the community but in connection with that insurgeant IED location I'm going to use T-walls to limit access to that spot so that it improves my ability to keep it under observation and to reduce the effective observation of the insurgeents.

You know what we need to do, we need the O/Cs at NTC and JRTC and maybe even CMTC to start making "Mythbuster" like videos to bust all of these damn myths like the t-wall and the soldier risk myth in an entertaining and humorous way but using the scientific method to say, OK you have a myth there, let me show you that is a myth and that it is wrong and why it is wrong. I think its our responsibility to do this to teach and reinforce what is learned and taught at the CTCs every rotation. Most of that stuff is lost in an AAR for a selected audience or burried in a CTC journal or submerged in a manual.

The reason I say this is because the things that you said that turned me off are common memes that float pervasively in the things people say about COIN. So the only way to prove them wrong is to unpack the box, pull them out and prove them wrong in a constuctive way where everyone survives. Learning that this concept of yours about taking risk to win hearts and minds is wrong can be very expensive in combat. It might end up with people dead and wounded, a commander relieved for cause and everyone who learned the lesson either dead or our of the army due to injury or UCMJ action.

Anyway your paper had a lot of words in it but I was not sure if it was for anything other than venting. It seemed to lack a little bit of logic and proof.

V/R

Chris Isgrig
MAJ, IN USAR

MAJ Chris Isgrig

“You lost me early and then you never regained my trust. The simple fact is that I think that you missed the risk equation. There is a popular risk equation that says that if the soldiers take more risk that they will earn more confidence from the local population and will be better able to win their "hearts and minds" the second configuration of this is that is the soldiers take more rish and expose themselves then the insurgeants won't attack innocent civilians but will instead concentrate on attacking only the soldiers. Both are totally unsupportable and totally wrong. A similar argument was made that the insurgeants would stop their attacks if the Americans were gone. This has proven to be totally false as have the other too. The insurgeants target the local population because they want to target the local population, not due to frustration at not being able to vent on soldiers a need that is created by the presence of soldiers.”

Response: First, the object of the paper was not to lose or gain your trust. It was to present my perception of what went wrong and present some possible solutions. I had not been aware of the first two risk equations you site, however, I do agree with you that they are totally wrong. The third risk equations, I have heard and totally disregard as also wrong. The insurgents attack civilians to create mass causalities and shock the population and government into conceding to their desires and to make policies that are more in-line with their political agendas.

“One of the key weaknesses of your argument is that there is no argument that can be made by the army or any of its officers that a soldier should take an un-neccessary risk. None, the argument can not be made that exposing themselved to harm without any gain will help win the struggle. In fact the contrary is true that the way to win is to minimize risk. I think it is better for our efforts if the insurgents are very frustrated because they can not hurt our troops and I think the better path to the hearts and minds of the locals is to show that our troops are invulnerable to anything that the insurgeants might do. A dead or hurt soldier is a propaganda victory for the insurgents, no one notices other than the insurgents how much risk the soldiers exposed themselves to to get to the point where their are dead and injured soldiers.”
Response: In war there is always risk. Necessary and Un-necessary risk is also always debatable. I am suggesting that to live and work in the community with the population will improve the relationships and help to win their hearts and minds. I am not advocating that we don’t take measures to protect ourselves, but rather develop ways to interface with the population on a regular basis. Living behind T-wall could be acceptable except the policy in Iraq after the T-walls were installed was to not leave the camp. That must change to allow local interface.

“There are however foolish people who accept these false arguments as valid because they don't understand the situation. The people who accept these false arguments should be removed from our military because they needlessly risk their own lives and the lives of the people trusted to them and they do so by showing bad logic and embracing arguments that give comfort to our adversaries and endanger our missions.”
“People get confused over why we had to move out into the communities and be among the people. It was not to increase our risk levels it was actually to lower our risk levels, not by exposing ourselves, not by being seen to expose ourselves but instead to be in a position where we could increase our intelligence information gathering ability.”

Response: I’m unaware that anyone, except some SF personnel actually lived “among the people”, certainly intelligence officers did not. I would add to your statement that there are also foolish people who claim to understand the situation, but do not. Additionally, those that try to reduce their risk to zero are overly cautious and continue to hide behind T-walls, while crunching data trying to understand the local population. We can all see how that worked out for us.

“Here ia a basic quiz for you. There is a place in the road where an IED had been detonated. How would you answer the IED threat? Do you lock yourself up in a big FOB? Do you switch to driving MRAPs? Or do you keep that spot under observation and try to enlist the local population to help you keep that spot under observation? My choice is to increaase the observation and intelligence for that location. No where in there would I increase the risk to me or my soldiers. I can increase the observation and intelligence gathering without risking anyone, because I will do a risk assessment and I will identify and reduce as best I can the risks. I'm still going to wear an IBA, I'm still going to wear a helmet, I'm still going to use a force protection package that is suited to the local environment. I'm not going to remove T-walls, I'm going to build them, I'm going to use the T-walls to protect my troops and my friends in the community but in connection with that insurgeant IED location I'm going to use T-walls to limit access to that spot so that it improves my ability to keep it under observation and to reduce the effective observation of the insurgents.”

Response: Nice Quiz!!! What good is observation without the capability to do something when you see activity. It’s good to know when someone moves around the device, but what do you plan to do, continue to watch and document when someone is there? You stated that you “will surround the IED site with T-walls to limit access to the spot and improves your ability to keep it under observation and to reduce the effective observation to the insurgents.” Good luck with that plan! Will the insurgents return to see why it didn’t detonate or to look at their handiwork? I think you will spend a lot of time observing something that produces no activity and no intelligence. Why not do trending to determine areas in which most IED’s are appearing and identify the “hot spots” and place them under observation to determine when an IED is placed. This would provide protection to the troops and also maybe allow you to identify who was planting the devices.

“You know what we need to do, we need the O/Cs at NTC and JRTC and maybe even CMTC to start making "Mythbuster" like videos to bust all of these damn myths like the t-wall and the soldier risk myth in an entertaining and humorous way but using the scientific method to say, OK you have a myth there, let me show you that is a myth and that it is wrong and why it is wrong. I think its our responsibility to do this to teach and reinforce what is learned and taught at the CTCs every rotation. Most of that stuff is lost in an AAR for a selected audience or burried in a CTC journal or submerged in a manual.”

Response: Good luck with your “Mythbuster” videos!!!

“The reason I say this is because the things that you said that turned me off are common memes that float pervasively in the things people say about COIN. So the only way to prove them wrong is to unpack the box, pull them out and prove them wrong in a constuctive way where everyone survives. Learning that this concept of yours about taking risk to win hearts and minds is wrong can be very expensive in combat. It might end up with people dead and wounded, a commander relieved for cause and everyone who learned the lesson either dead or our of the army due to injury or UCMJ action.”

Response: Thank you for proving my point that trained Unconventional Warfare Officers should manage and control the unconventional war.

“Anyway your paper had a lot of words in it but I was not sure if it was for anything other than venting. It seemed to lack a little bit of logic and proof.”

Response: Yes, logic and proof are difficult to obtain in a paper such as mine and in the academic world. The proof is self evident to those with the real combat experience of having lived the life and to understand it.

No one is advocating sloppy and careless operations that needlessly put men at risk, but excessive hiding behind T-walls in a COIN environment hasn't proven very effective either. Ask yourself who is initiating most of the contacts, your solider or the insurgents? If it is the insurgents, then your current tactics are still allowing them to much freedom of movement. The surge in Iraq resulted in more U.S. losses at first, but then the level of violence was suppressed because the insurgents were beat down. The enemy will use everything and anything for propaganda, so that is no excuse not to fight if that is your mission. Like most situations the answer isn't black and white. The ones we need to clear out of our ranks are those who wear the uniform but refuse to leave to the wire, and then manufacture illogical reasons for not doing so.

MAJ Isgrig----you bring up some interesting points. Let me say that in fact we have currently a total risk averse military---nothing hurts the OER like the loss of personnel does, or one loses a fight over a COP and losses the fight or takes a direct swarm attack on a FOB resulting in loss of life.

In Iraq we lost over 4400 KIAs and over 30K WIAs and if one puts it in perspective that is roughly what 8-10 BCTs in the 8 years. As hard has it is to say we are not even close to those numbers in Afghanistan so one might draw the conclusion that the true heavy fighting was done in fact in Iraq.

I am not so sure why you would say that the insurgents were frustrated in that they could not hit us---look at their own ops tempo that they had and do not think for a moment Iraqi insurgents did not also work off of a campaign plan and a targeting cycle and based on their recon pull abilities they simply waited for the opportunity to hit and that was we when always had gotten into patterns.

What really frustrated the insurgents the most was figuring out how to get in under 100m so they could strike as they constantly were trying to figure out how to avoid our heavy fire capabilities thus the IEDs, EFPs, IDFs, sniper attacks, RKG-3 grenade attacks, and then in late 2006 they really got good at complex swarm attacks---ask the 1st CAV about the COP strikes in Baqubah (and they were sitting behind T barriers).

I would draw your attention to the article released in the last week here in SWJ concerning the rural vs urban insurgency concerning Diylal province--in order to take the fight to the various insurgent groups one had to come out of the FOBs and engage. The problem was that to a certain extent we were risk averse and tended because of that to act and patrol in much the same fashion allowing for the recon pull of the insurgents to determine our patterns and strike those patterns before disappearing back into the population.

The core overall problem was we really were not "seeing" and "understanding" our operational environment in Iraq in 2005/2006 and we still are not good at it in Afghanistan and if one is not "seeing" and "understanding" ---that is where the risk comes in regardless of what you do or do not do.

Mr. Jones is highly correct in a number of his assumptions and we saw some of his ideas being instituted by some of the BCT/BN battlefield Cmdrs out of common sense not based on COIN---in 2005/2006 not many even knew of FM 3-24.

You bring up the CTCs---the problem there is just getting a BCT to "make it" through two complete named operations in a somewhat coherent fashion--the units struggle massively in trying to just get even the battle staff processes to work and really are not in a receptive mode when it comes to new TTPs and or ideas from the OCs. Way to often one repeatedly hears---"been there, done it and have the T-shirts---now just let me get through this CTC rotation as I have a deployment ahead of me and we are just about out the door".

Risk averse---we definitely are---with or without T barriers.

Guys, sorry I've been out of pocket for the last week. Next week, I'll respond to some of the comments that have yet to be answered. Thank all of you for your interest and candid responses.

John

I find much wrong with this article especially in the introduction.

"The current Iraqi government is fully supported by and responsive to the Iranians."

This is a common refrain, but some contradictory evidence. The MEK has been in Iraq since Saddam's time, after 2003 Iran has consistently demanded that their camp be shut down and they be expelled. Each year Baghdad says they will do something about them, but they haven't. How much influence does Tehran have over Iraq if it can't even get one of their main opposition group's camps shut down? Also Iraq is ramping up its oil production and has the potential to surpass Iran's production, thus becoming a real rival in energy. Iran has had no influence upon this. There are plenty of others.

"The Prime Minister and members of the Iraqi Parliament routinely travel to Iran to consult with them on internal Iraqi issues."

Iraqi officials also consistently go to Turkey. Iraqi politicians have been going to Iran since 2003 while the U.S. had thousands of troops in the country. I don't see this as a change or how the U.S. lost the peace. Iraqi officials should be visiting their neighbors and would be going more often to the Gulf States but those governments dislike Iraq's because it's run by Shiites.

"It has been reported that some Iraqi Parliament Members and Iraqi Ministers have taken bribes from Hezbollah. "

Do you know how corrupt the Iraqi government is? Bottom ten since 2003. They will take bribes from everyone, not just Hezbollah, from Iraqis, from foreign companies, etc. Foreign countries pumped in millions of dollars into all different political parties before the 2010 elections because there is now law banning this type of funding or to make parties disclose their finances.

"Additionally, it has been reported that some Parliament Members were briefed by and were told by senior Hezbollah members that once the US Military was out of Iraq, that anyone that was a threat to Iran must be killed. They reportedly agreed to this Iranian mandate."

I'd like to see this report.

"Yes, we lost the peace in Iraq and I fully expect in the next few months to see massive sectarian violence occur with large numbers of casualties in the population. It’s “get even time” for the Shia."

The Shiites already "got even" with the Sunnis. They cleansed most of Baghdad and the surrounding areas, won the civil war, and control the government! Sunni militants have continued attacks upon Shiites and Shiite pilgrims every single religious festival, and they have not responded. Why would the Shiites be waiting for the U.S. withdrawal to retalite when they retaliated and went to war when the U.S. was already in the country from 2005-2008?

I would suspect the current security situation to remain just as it has been since 2009 when many Sunnis decided to join the political process and attacks and deaths took a decided drop. Today the insurgents simply don't have the means to do anything more than they currenlty do, and the Shiite militias have lost one of their main reasons for existence, the U.S. military presence.

"This Strong Man would be similar to Saddam Hussein except a Shia rather than a Sunni. Once again, our political machine has failed, compared to the Iranians."

Most studies of Iran's policy towards Iraq believe that Tehran wants it to have a weak and divided goverment, not a strong man, so that it can play divide and conquer, and curry favor with the different political parties. Having a strong man in power in Baghdad could lead to a stronger Iraq, which Iran fears as it has been their historical rival for literally centuries.

I could go on further, but that's just from the first two paragraphs of this article.

Wine, I’ll respond to your comments.

“This is a common refrain, but some contradictory evidence. The MEK has been in Iraq since Saddam's time, after 2003 Iran has consistently demanded that their camp be shut down and they be expelled.”

Response: In 2011, elements of the new Iraqi Army attacked the MEK Camp, killing many (I don’t remember how many) and attempting to close the camp. This was in response to the Iranian request that they do so. Initially, the Iraqis stated that they were going to close the camp within a month and anyone left in the camp would be arrested and sent back to Iran (Death sentence). Only through the request of the US and the UN did Iraq delay the closure. Now that the US is out of Iraq, we see on the news that an agreement has been reached to move all camp residents to the BIAP for further relocation to countries yet to be identified. This would effectively halt any resistance to Iran from this source.

“Also Iraq is ramping up its oil production and has the potential to surpass Iran's production, thus becoming a real rival in energy. Iran has had no influence upon this. There are plenty of others.”

Response: Do you seriously think that they are rivals in energy when both sides can sell as much oil as they can pump to an oil hungry world? Economic rivals only become so when the actions of one adversely affect the sales or income of the other. Thus far, and until the world supply becomes too small for the demand, there are no Oil rivals, only greed and jealousy. The only current restrictions on the oil supply is technology and need to limit production to keep the price up.

“Iraqi officials also consistently go to Turkey. Iraqi politicians have been going to Iran since 2003 while the U.S. had thousands of troops in the country. I don't see this as a change or how the U.S. lost the peace.”

Response: This is a valid point. However, I gave the example simply to show it as an indicator that we did lose the peace. It’s more about the results of the visits than the fact that they visited. When Iraqi government ministers and parliament members return and follow mandates given by Iran, shows a strong indicator of the future. Now that we are out of Iraq, do you seriously think that Iraqis will begin to resist those mandates or will they open the door for more Iranian direction.

“Do you know how corrupt the Iraqi government is? Bottom ten since 2003. They will take bribes from everyone, not just Hezbollah, from Iraqis, from foreign companies, etc. Foreign countries pumped in millions of dollars into all different political parties before the 2010 elections because there is now law banning this type of funding or to make parties disclose their finances.”

Response: Of course I know of their corruption. However, the foreign companies and countries are not going to follow it up with veiled threats to assure that they respond to the bribes. After the bribes, Hezbollah followed up with visits to the individuals’ offices in Baghdad to reinforce the bribe. The implication was that we know where you work and live and can get to you if you don’t follow-through.

"Additionally, it has been reported that some Parliament Members were briefed by and were told by senior Hezbollah members that once the US Military was out of Iraq, that anyone that was a threat to Iran must be killed. They reportedly agreed to this Iranian mandate."
“I'd like to see this report.”

Response: The Open Source Daily Monitor reported this in mid-to late September 2011. The Monitor is a condensed version of other news media reports around the Mid-East. I don’t remember which source the Monitor used for its’ report. But look it up.

“The Shiites already "got even" with the Sunnis. They cleansed most of Baghdad and the surrounding areas, won the civil war, and control the government! Sunni militants have continued attacks upon Shiites and Shiite pilgrims every single religious festival, and they have not responded. Why would the Shiites be waiting for the U.S. withdrawal to retalite when they retaliated and went to war when the U.S. was already in the country from 2005-2008?”
“I would suspect the current security situation to remain just as it has been since 2009 when many Sunnis decided to join the political process and attacks and deaths took a decided drop. Today the insurgents simply don't have the means to do anything more than they currenlty do, and the Shiite militias have lost one of their main reasons for existence, the U.S. military presence.”

Response: If you believe this, than you are either ill-informed, naïve or have no understanding of the Sunni and/or the Shia. I suggest that you go live with them for a few years.

“Most studies of Iran's policy towards Iraq believe that Tehran wants it to have a weak and divided goverment, not a strong man, so that it can play divide and conquer, and curry favor with the different political parties. Having a strong man in power in Baghdad could lead to a stronger Iraq, which Iran fears as it has been their historical rival for literally centuries.”

Response: When it comes to Iran, “most studies” seem to miss the mark. Most studies have been missing the mark on Iran for years, as evidenced by the current and ongoing situation about nuclear weapons, and the support being provided to Iraqi insurgents. The “strong man” comment was simply reporting what I have heard senior Iraqi Army Officers say when they are speaking confidentially. Thank you for pointing out the historical rivalry. However, it has not been going on for centuries, Iraq is a country with political boundaries carved out of Turkey, Iran, and Syria by the British. If you will notice, the predominant tribal areas coincide with the surrounding countries and are cause for some of the conflict. Iraq is an artificial country politically created by the British, for their own self-interest, when they were a regional power.

Wing---you make a number of interesting comments.

1. MeK was left in quiet from 2003 through to 2010 as the US Army had a Camp monitoring their activities located next to the MeK facility and had disarmed them in 2004 when they were declared by the UN to be a protected civilian group. MeK was recently massively attacked by Iraqi security forces responsive only to Maliki.The US Army was unable to defend them as they previously could militarily--this time they attempted to intervene via diplomatic means.

The MeK facility was just rocketed and many are not sure the agreements worked out by Iraq/US/UN in transferring them to the Green Zone and out of Iraq will actually be implemented---SO yes Iraq is responding to Iranian demands.

2. JAM/SJAM units answer only to al Sadr---both Sadr and leading JAM/SJAM personnel who were being hunted by the US ALL fled to Iran and have over the last three years drifted back into Iraq. Maliki was able to apply pressure against who he thought could challenge him ie JAM/SJAM--- only backed by US power when the US Army openingly moved against JAM/SJAM--again we were used by Maliki to establish himself as the "strong man".

3. Iraqi Special Forces and MoI Police Divisons only answer to Maliki not al Sadr---majority of those personnel are Shia based-limited Sunni involvement in these units

4. all Major Crimes Units (former Federales) were and are today manned by Shia---

5. not sure al Sadr has given up his desires at leading a Shia based government as it was his father's dream

Yes the Shia in fact as you say "cleansed" Baghdad but it did not "clear" the large Sunni regions of the Sunni triangle as the US Army intervened and got between the murder squads of the Shia and the Sunni population.

That blocking force is no longer in place---if you do not believe the Sunni groups have not refitted and rearmed you are not informed---if you believe the Saudi's will stand by and allow Sunni's to be "cleansed" again especially with their mistrust of Iran then you are not informed. If you think that for a moment al Sadr does not answer to Iran then you are not informed

And the list goes on---

"JAM/SJAM units answer only to al Sadr"

The Mahdi Army was never a structured/organized militia. Various units were created at the local level and while they took direction from Sadr they largely did what they wanted. Sadr would routinely kick out members, and the militia widely fractured, leading to the various Special Groups.

"again we were used by Maliki to establish himself as the "strong man"."

I wouldn't consider that being used as both Maliki and the U.S. had the mutual goal of wanting to go after the Sadrists. I don't think the U.S. had to be manipulated at all to agree with the crackdown Maliki led in 08. In fact, it was something that the U.S. had been asking for years previously and Maliki had refused becuase he relied upon Sadr for political support within the ruling coalition.

"Iraqi Special Forces and MoI Police Divisons only answer to Maliki not al Sadr---majority of those personnel are Shia based-limited Sunni involvement in these units"

The Special Forces/Counter-terrorism unit are directly under Maliki's control. He is currently the acting Defense and Interior Minister as well as commander and chief, so in practice all the security forces are supposed to answer to him. Because the U.S. pushed the growth of the security forces as quickly as possible however, every political party, militia and insurgent group got their people into the forces, so there are still divided loyalties. Thousands of peshmerga and Badr Brigade forces for example went directly into the forces, and now Maliki is letting some of the Sadrists in as well.

"if you do not believe the Sunni groups have not refitted and rearmed you are not informed"

And you're ignoring the fact that most of the Sunni population 1) are tired of the fighting as they lost 2) have now joined politics to gain political power and try to get development funds. That started in 2009 with the provincial elections and increased in the 2010 vote as more Sunnis turned out, insurgent groups participated, and attacks, deaths and violence took a marked drop from 2008, and have remained at that level since then.

Again, I see no increase in violence in the following years.

"if you believe the Saudi's will stand by and allow Sunni's to be "cleansed" again especially with their mistrust of Iran then you are not informed."

And thanks to that sentiment our "friends" the Saudis funded the insurgency and helped get Americans killed.

Wing---we went after the Mehdi Army as a payback for the continious JAM/SJAM attacks on US forces---yes while we often wanted to attack directly in the period 2008-2009 we did not as we did not get the permission of the Iraqi National Security Council---controlled by Maliki---when the Maliki controlled security forces bogged down in their attacks on JAM in the south the US stepped in finished it and then moved on JAM in Baghdad---are you saying that it was not in the interest of Maliki to rein in a competing Shia grouping that was challenging him using the US power after his elite units could not finish the task?

This comment is interesting in that it is exactly what I have been saying---there have been two distinct Iraqi Security Forces raids into Diyala in the last six months taking hundreds of alleged Baathists prisoners----the exact same argument (Baathists) given when the Wolf Bde raided twice into Diyala in 2005 which convinced the Sunni tribes that "cleansing" was starting. As long as the Iraqi SF/CT units answer to Maliki---he is in fact the single defacto "Strong Man" as I do not see him in the immediate future giving up that Security Forces power base.

"The Special Forces/Counter-terrorism unit are directly under Maliki's control. He is currently the acting Defense and Interior Minister as well as commander and chief, so in practice all the security forces are supposed to answer to him. Because the U.S. pushed the growth of the security forces as quickly as possible however, every political party, militia and insurgent group got their people into the forces, so there are still divided loyalties. Thousands of peshmerga and Badr Brigade forces for example went directly into the forces, and now Maliki is letting some of the Sadrists in as well."

Yes the Saudi's funneled funding to the insurgents as well as providing fighters- and they still are---do you believe they really trust that Maliki a Shia is going to continue to protect the Sunni population?

Violence and death figures by the way for 2011 are higher than in previous years---and even in the provinces there has been a steady level of attacks on the Iraqi security apparatus even when US forces were there.

So yes some of us that experienced the first civil war are simply saying it never really stopped and it is slowly beginning to pick up speed again.

From 2005-2007 the U.S. consistently asked to go after the Mahdi Army, but Maliki would not let them. In fact, he protected the Mahdi Army. So when Maliki finally went after the Sadrists in 2008, the U.S. said finally! Thus, the U.S. was not being manipulated or used, it was in both's interest to go after the militia. And yes, Maliki obviously gained from it politically. You protrayed it as Maliki "using" the U.S. His 2008 crackdown also does not fit into the narrative of the Iraqi government being an Iranian stooge since Iran backed both Maliki and the Sadrists, and one smashed the other.

The numbers do not bear out any idea that the civil war is still going on or that violence is picking up as security has largley been the same from 2009-2011. What Iraq is experiencing is a major terrorist problem, but it's not a civil war or even really an insurgency anymore. Only the total number of deaths slightly went up from 2010 to 2011, the avgerages were almost exactly the same, and te number of attacks took a large drop in 2011 compared to 2010.

2010 avg. monthly deaths 293
2011 avg. montlhy deaths 299

2010 avg. daily deaths 9.6
2011 avg. daily deaths 9.8

Total Deaths 2009-2011
2009 4,713
2010 4,045
2011 4,088

Attacks in Iraq 2009-2010
2009 8,909 total, avg. 742.4 per month
2010 9,213 total, avg. 767.7 per month
2011 5,470 total, avg. 455.8 per month

Wing---it is all about perception in Iraq---Maliki has the security forces/SOF so therefore he is "strong", he controls the judical so the perception is that he is all "powerful", he was able regardless of US forces to sell the idea that it was he who moved on Sadr---therefore he is a "powerful leader", he stood up to the US and did not offer a new SOFA-therfore a Shia "nationalist" Iraq's interests.

From AFP yesterday came this from the Sunni side as they "perceive" the Shia making the same moves as before the "cleansing" ---it is all about perception.

Also if you are using the death figures---a reduction in say 60 deaths per month or an average of 15 a week or 2 a day in 2011 from 2009 is not much of a reductiuon---that is why I keep saying the civil war was and is on a low burner but rapidly heating up. Especially after an IED strike by the Shia on an Sunni leading figure in Parilment this week.

"Salaheddin, Anbar and Diyala provinces have all made moves to obtain autonomy from the central government of the type enjoyed by Iraq's northern Kurdish region.

Nujaifi also cautioned against a politicised security force, amid accusations that units have surrounded the homes of senior Sunni politicians inside Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone.

"The priority of the army should not change from training and raising its combat level to seeking political power and supporting parties," Nujaifi said.

His remarks came amid a political deadlock, with authorities having charged Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi with running a death squad and Maliki calling for Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak to be fired.

Mutlak and Hashemi's Iraqiya party has boycotted parliament and cabinet meetings. Hashemi, who is holed up in the autonomous Kurdish region, rejects the accusations, while Mutlak has decried the national unity government as a dictatorship.

Lawmakers are due to consider Maliki's request for Mutlak to be fired on Tuesday.

Several Iraqi leaders have called for urgent talks of politicians from all major blocs to resolve the crisis, but no such meetings have yet been held.

Read this report I wrote about Diyala's drive to become an autonomous region:

http://musingsoniraq.blogspot.com/2011/12/push-to-make-iraqs-diyala-prov...

It's been portrayed as a sectarian move by Sunnis against the Shiite central government, but is in fact, much more complicated as it was backed by Sunnis and Kurds, and opposed by Shiites and other Sunnis, and actually has far more to do with the struggle between the center and periphery over money, security, authority, etc. Hence when Salahaddin first announced its plans to become an autonomous region provinces like Basra and Dhi Qar brought up the matter as well, and those are majority Shiite provinces.

Wing---the support from the Kurds is in fact interesting as it goes to the attempts of the Kurds to establish Kurdish control of areas in Diyala that were originally Kurdish but through arabization were lost by the Kurds---heck half of the names of towns in Diyala have original Kurdish names. The Green line has been pushed repeatedly by the PeshMerga even when the US was there and they did not stop the Kurds.

Agree that is has more to do with the issues of money but it also has to do with the feeling by the Sunnis that they are living in a secured region with no fear from Shia death squads. The Shia on the other hand still view Diyala as Shia based on the Iranian border zones and Mandila---which the Kurds also want because of the large oil reserves located under the lake there.

Maliki will never give in to separate federal zones even though anchored in the constitution as it would mean that he has a reduced role as a power figure.

It all goes back to the control of the old Silk Road---believe me.

If you look at the attack figures you'll see a large drop from 2009-2010 compared to 2011. Not much of a flaring up of a "brewing civil war" if they went down by an avg. of 312 attacks per month!

P.S. - Since Issawi's convoy got hit in Salahaddin you can assume that it was likely a Sunni insurgent group that targeted him. Not a Shiite group, so it doesn't fit into your "coming civil war" theory.

Wing ---take it your assumption is that in Salahaddin province there are no Shia based armed groups ie JAM, SJAM, Badr or three other armed Shia groups that also are also currently in Diyala as well.

That would be a surprise to the Sunni's in both SaD and Diyala especially when about 25-30% of the population is Shia.

Just a thought.

Wing

You might want to check your sources and assumptions.

I can back up what I say with multiple sources.

For example, the numbers for attacks in Iraq come from the U.N.'s Inter-Agency and Information Anaysis Unit:
http://incidents.iauiraq.org/

The death figures are based upon averaging the three main organizations that record them: Iraq Body Count, the U.N., and the Iraqi ministries. Here's a year end breakdown of that information that I just wrote:
http://musingsoniraq.blogspot.com/2012/01/security-slightly-improved-in-...

Dude,

1. That attack was a ten minute drive from a mostly Shia town.

2. It's not as black and white as Sunni and Shia.

3. Be very cautious on anything coming out of the Iraqi ministries. They have an incentive in blaming Sunni, Wahhabi, Al Qaida, Kurds, Sadr, Persians, and Turks for any attacks.

4. I like Iraq Body Counts and UN, but now that the US is gone, you have to check the source for the report. Was it a direct first hand account or a secondary source? They, just like the news media, will have restricted access on reporting.

Mike,

If you look at the specific incident reports for Iraq Body Count they mostly rely upon the Iraqi press for their counts these days, and have been doing so for quite some time. The same would likely be true for the U.N. since they have an active U.N. mission in country.

The Iraqi ministry counts I use are the monthly reports from the Defense, Interior and Health ministries. They're just aggregate numbers for deaths and wounded, and are usuallly far below the U.N. and Iraq Body Count numbers. They don't mention the cause of the casualties.

Wing,

I'm not challenging you; just sharing what I've learned after banging my head into the wall for many years trying figure out which sources to trust and being burned which in some cases caused deaths. Use it if it's helpful.

Here's another way to look at it. Let's say you're from Oakland, and something big happened like Occupy Oakland while you were on an extended vacation, who would you turn to get your news from? CNN, FOX, MSNBC, BBC, the UN, a DC think tank, your local paper, your local tv station, your next door neighbor that you've known for twenty years, or the crazy lady up the street who is the gossip queen?

We live in a world of with the ability to collect a lot of information fast, but not all info is relevant, and you have to learn how to process the good from the bad and weigh specific sources.

P.S. There are some damn good Iraqi journalists, but there are some stringers and propagandists too just like everywhere else in the world.

Just an example of what John is indicating from his article:

In late 2005, we had a "HVI" delivered to the BCT BIF from the town of Jalula a "contested Arab/Kurdish" town. The local PeshMerge" intelligence had "tipped" the US Army unit in the area about a jihadi "sniper". The Army unit captured and delivered him to the BIF without a single piece of evidence accompanying him.

First of all the individual was over 300lbs and when I asked him to place his finger in the trigger mechanism of a Soviet sniper rifle he could barely get the tip of the finger joint even into the trigger area. It was apparent to the lowest Pvt just how big his fingers were.

In following discussions it was determined that he was one of the richest local Arab farmers in Diyala with over 3000 domar in date palms and wheat fields in the Jalula and Baqubah area and a tribal leader of one of the largest eastern Diyala Sunni tribes.

He did admit that he knew that he had "hotheads" in his tribe that were itching to attack the US but he was holding them in check as he felt it was a wrong fight. Research had indicated that not a single IED had been planted or detonated on the MSRs crossing through his tribal area.

We then "arranged" for him to remain in detention as he was "collecting" 5 USD per day for an "unlawful detention" (something that later the Army/DoS forced BCT Cmdrs to stop doing-reasons were never stated)---but what was more interesting was that he had been arrested with a white pearl handed revolver that had been his fathers who had gotten it from the British. He had been fearful that we would keep it which was common in 2005.

We arranged a formal handover of the weapon, a formal apology to him and paid him for the two week detention and arranged to have a taxi return him to Jalula.

Result---his tribe never engaged in the IED fight and remained neutral at first to AQI and then later supported the Awakening.

Amazing what respect and a little common sense got you in 2005---think this is what John is alluding too.

(JWJ) We have only been successful in a unconventional conflict when it has been managed by unconventional personnel. The El Salvador conflict was managed successfully by Special Forces personnel with very little conventional military involvement.

The El Salvador "conflict" was a victory unless you consider the 70,000 dead Salvadorans from government and military death squads supported by the U.S. --Human Rights Watch published a book about it: EL SALVADOR'S DECADE OF TERROR.

"The Salvador Option" was also used in Iraq. Iraqi police death squads were instigated in 2004 by Colonel James Steele who had led the US Military Advisory Group in El Salvador 1984 to 1986.

As Gian indicates, the problem in El Salvador as in other locales was not only wrong tactics but primarily was a failure of strategy and policy. The purpose of U.S. policy in El Salvador was to wipe out the popular organizations and support a traditional Latin-American type regime that would ensure the kind of business climate conducive to U.S. corporate profits.

It's the same kind of wrongful military intervention that MajGen Smedley Butler wrote about many years ago based on his Central America experience with the marines.

I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

Mr. Bacon
“The El Salvador "conflict" was a victory unless you consider the 70,000 dead Salvadorans from government and military death squads supported by the U.S. --Human Rights Watch published a book about it: EL SALVADOR'S DECADE OF TERROR.”

Response: I will never defend the use of “Death Squads,” they are a detriment to winning an unconventional war. However, the Truth Commission in their report made the following observations and provided insight into the mentality of both sides that existed in El Salvador during the 1980s and early 1990s as follows.

“For their vision and their courage in embracing these ends, the government, the former guerrillas and the people of El Salvador deserve the praise and respect of the international community.”
“The army, security forces and death squads linked to them committed massacres, sometimes of hundreds of people at a time. They also carried out targeted assassinations of many others, including the country's archbishop and six Jesuit priests. The FMLN guerrillas also followed a logic of violence that led to grave human rights violations. They killed, kidnapped and disappeared civilians, dissidents within the rebel movement, public officials, mayors, judges and unarmed U.S. military personnel. This outburst of violence has deep roots in a history of violence in El Salvador that permitted political opponents to be defined as enemies to be eliminated. A mentality of violence affected all sides in the war. It was reinforced by the lack of a credible judicial system.”

Your allegation that the US supported the Death Squads is flawed. As most know, a military trainer/advisor trains a foreign military force on military tactics and techniques and by agreement cannot get involved in how those tactics and techniques are used. Because we had trainers in El Salvador training their military, any claim of support to the death squads is invalid unless they directly participated in the events. There is no documented proof of this participation in any of the reports coming out during or after the war. I have had a number of private conversations with SF members that served in El Salvador in the 1980s and at no time did any of them acknowledge that they participated in the use of Death Squads. On the contrary, at least one stated that when he suspected their use, he notified the US military chain of command and the US diplomats serving in El Salvador. Yes, some of the SF trainers became aware of the death squads and if you check your sources, you’ll find that those same SF personnel were the first to raise the issue to US Military Commanders and US Diplomatic personnel.

The report also states that; “It is the Commission's hope that a more just El Salvador will arise from the ashes of a war in which all sides were unjust.”

A complete report can be found on the internet under; “The Truth Commission Report,” for those who would like to read the entire document.

Some of the findings of the report follow:

“II. The FMLN
In broad terms, the Commission finds the FMLN responsible for having committed "grave acts of violence" including assassinations, disappearances and kidnappings during the war that violated human rights and humanitarian law. The Commission received more than 800 denunciations of grave violations by the FMLN, including nearly 400 killings and over 300 disappearances. The Commission calls on the FMLN to renounce forever all forms of violence in the pursuit of political ends.”

“III. The Armed Forces
The vast majority of abuses studied by the Commission were committed by members of the armed forces or groups allied to them. In order to promote the urgent need in El Salvador to professionalize the military, bring it under civilian control and instill it with a respect for human rights, the Commission makes the following recommendations:
1) Immediate removal from the military of all officers cited for human rights and other major violations.
2) Steps to assure civilian control of military promotions, the military budget and all intelligence services.
3) A new, legally backed, provision permitting military personnel to refuse to obey unlawful orders.
4) Steps to cut all ties between the military and private armed groups or other paramilitary groups.
5) The profound study of human rights at the military academy and in other officer training courses.”

“IV. Death Squads
The Commission finds that death squads, often operated by the military and supported by powerful businessmen, land-owners and some leading politicians, have long acted in El Salvador and remain a potential menace. The Commission received testimony on more than 800 victims of death squads. This problem is so serious that the Commission calls for a special investigation of death squads in order to reveal and then put an end to such activity. The Commission is especially concerned by the close relation between the military, hired assassins and extremists within the Salvadoran business community and some affluent families, who resorted to killing to settle disputes. This practice must end. The Commission also is concerned that Salvadoran exiles living in Miami helped administer death squad activities between 1980 and 1983, with apparently little attention from the U.S. government. Such use of American territory for acts of terrorism abroad should be investigated and never allowed to be repeated.”

“V. The Justice System
The Commission finds that the system of justice in El Salvador is highly deficient. It makes several recommendations to address this profound problem that permitted the abuse of human rights in El Salvador.”

It should be noted that nowhere in the report did it document or even state that there was any US support or involvement with the Death Squads. Providing military training to the Salvador Military does not constitute support for the Death Squads.

"The Salvador Option" was also used in Iraq. Iraqi police death squads were instigated in 2004 by Colonel James Steele who had led the US Military Advisory Group in El Salvador 1984 to 1986.

Your implication here is that because he was the Mil Group Commander in El Salvador that he also taught the Iraqi Military to use Death Squads. I don’t believe and I have checked many sources, such as, James Cooper, David Kirsh, Craig Payes and others that have made many allegations but provide no prof. No Americans taught nor did they support the El Salvador militaries use of death squads. Therefore, your implication is not valid. It would be interesting to know who taught the FLMN to conduct assassinations or did they just evolve out of the violence existing in El Salvador at the time.

“The purpose of U.S. policy in El Salvador was to wipe out the popular organizations and support a traditional Latin-American type regime that would ensure the kind of business climate conducive to U.S. corporate profits.”

Again, I am not here to defend US policy. I will however, state that of the two evils, supporting the “Latin-American type regime” over the Nicaragua Communist supported FLMN was the lessor of the two.

“It's the same kind of wrongful military intervention that MajGen Smedley Butler wrote about many years ago based on his Central America experience with the marines.”

“I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

Except for wanting to rant about the United States, what Gen. Butler wrote and his claims are irrelevant at this time. We are all aware of our history and the “Gun-boat Diplomacy” that existed in the early 1900’s. I think we can all agree that similar diplomacy is not appropriate as US policy now.

A few comments on the comments below...

Why must the new Iraqi government be “salable to Americans as “democracy’?" In my mind the objective was to stand-up a government that was secure of outside influence, stable and friendly to the Americans. Am I missing something here? Were we mandated to make it a democracy, in our image or were we to stabilize the country.

I think what’s missing is acknowledgement that everything the US does abroad is ultimately shaped by and primarily responsive to domestic political imperatives on the US side. Selling a new Iraqi government to Americans as “democracy” was in no way necessary for Iraq. It was still something the administration felt they had to do. That may not be the way things should be, but it’s the way things are. Domestic politics are and will continue to be a major constraint in all US activity overseas.

Of course, beyond the top couple of tiers, a selection process would have to have been conducted to weed out the ones that had committed those crimes. Not all police nor military supported Saddam to point of committing crimes against the general population. Those that did would obviously not have been included in the new police or military.

I can see the merit in that. I still think the actual mechanics of that process would extremely difficult. Figuring out who did what and who was accountable for what in an environment where all sources of information have their own agendas is not going to be simple… and even if the process is effective, people who are trying to stir up trouble among Shi’a and Kurd would still play on the perception of a Sunni army pursuing Sunni agendas. Converting a Sunni-dominated force that was widely (and justifiably) seen as an instrument of Sunni domination to a fully Iraqi force accepted as neutral by all factions was always going to be a huge problem.

This runs back to one of the thorniest problems in any post-dictatorship environment: the battle between justice and reconciliation. That problem is even more dramatic when ethnic/sectarian and minority/majority politics are in the mix, and almost any course taken typically leaves a large number of people angry.

Of course it’s all speculative now, as we’ve no way to know where the road not taken would have led.

I would say that the peace objectives were to establish a stable Iraq, free of outside influence, strong enough to protect itself and its’ citizens and friendly to the US, with strong ties to the Western Worlds’ economic and political systems.

I agree… but given the history, the environment, the constraints of domestic policy, were those objectives ever realistic? How is the goal of a stable Iraq consistent with the deep and pervasive ethnic/sectarian divisions? How do we reconcile the goal of an Iraq “free of outside influence” with our desire to retain our own outside influence, and with the overwhelming perceived interest of neighboring states in achieving influence in Iraq?

We sometimes overestimate what “winning hearts and minds” can accomplish. Certainly we could have been more effective at engagement, persuaded people to shoot at us less and listen to us more, achieved more cooperation. If we expect “winning hearts and minds” to persuade people to set aside their own goals and perceived interests and adopt ours instead, we’re asking too much. If we think Americans earning the trust of Iraqis will lead to Iraqis trusting each other, we’re being overly optimistic.

I understand the tendency of people from the military side to focus on tactics and to analyze errors in tactics: that’s what’s under their control and it makes perfect sense for them to work with what they can change. I agree with Col Gentile, though, that the fundamental errors in Iraq were on the policy level, and that no strategy or tactics can compensate for bad policy. Many of those errors occurred before the war began. It's hard to forget all the blithe talk of "installing a democracy", as if it were a spare tire or a light bulb, that went on in those days. Winning a peace in such a divided society is hard enough at best, saddling the effort with such incomprehensibly defective assumptions from the start makes it infinitely harder.

Winning, whether war or peace, is about achieving objectives. A winning policy starts before any action is undertaken: it’s rooted in having clear, practical objectives, realistically assessing challenges and obstacles, and pursuing your goals with appropriate methods and tools. Winning the war was relatively easy because the goal of destroying Saddam’s armed forces was clear, practical, and achievable, and we had appropriate tools and methods at our disposal. Winning the peace proved far more elusive, largely (IMO as always) because our goals were not clear, practical, and achievable, because we hugely underestimated the challenges and obstacles, and because we did not have suitable methods and tools at our disposal. Certainly there were enormous errors made in the field, but much of the uncertainty and confusion that led to those mistakes flowed down form deficient policy.

Good policy doesn’t guarantee good performance: the folks in the field still have to execute. Bad policy, though, puts the people in the field at a huge disadvantage from the start.

I'd recommend that everyone take this article for what it is: an initial OPSUM or SITREP from an experienced NCO who knows what right should look like.

John---will respond in more detail to this after completing an article on Diyala from the period 2005 to 2006.

Liked the firm use of conventional and unconventional--as it has alreadys been about UW regardless of what style of fighting is being "seen".

Agree fully that the civil war has in effect already started with the recent Iraqi raid on the MeK even when the US Forces were still there.

With current developments ongoing in Diyala it will only get worse---not so sure the Shia fully understand just how the former Sunni insurgent groups around the IAI and the Baathists groups not tied to QRJB (AQI)have retrained and rearmed as they were firmly convinced this would come as they never fully trusted Malaki was going to do power sharing---interesting to see both the PM of the Kurds and the former Sunni insurgents groups are now cooperating on a political level.

The Shia army units are vastly overrated--ie recent fighting in a Diyala area it required extremely heavy use of US air power and US ground troops as the IA repeatedly failed to complete their attacks.

By the way--nice to see that former members of the 5th SFGA, Det A, and the 10th SGFG from the old Bad Toelz days are still very active. Not many of the grey beards are still voicing their opinions--although at times it feels like one is shouting into the wildeness.

Just a point. I never served in the 10th. 1st., 5th, 6th, and 7th. but not the 10th. I would have loved to have served in Bad Toelz. A wonderful location and unit.

John

A lot of good observations here, but I can't help feeling that two different problems are being pushed into one. Certainly there is a real risk of civil war in post-US Iraq, and certainly Iran has significant influence with the Shi'a leadership. I suspect that this was likely to be the case in any post-Saddam disposition, and I don't see how it relates to American failure to "win hearts and minds". Even if we had won more of those, would that have resolved the differences between Shi'a, Sunni, and Kurd, or made them more likely to cooperate? Is the likelihood of civil war driven by American failure to win hearts and minds or by generations of brutal domination of a majority by a minority, and of brutal suppression of another minority? I suspect that no matter how many h&m's we'd won, the Kurds would still resist domination by either Sunni or Shi'a, and the violence-prone dynamic between Shi'a and Sunni would still be very much in play. That's not about us or how the Iraqis see or saw us, it's about tensions implicit in Iraqi history and society. I suspect that the US underestimated from the start the difficulty of overcoming that legacy and creating a government that would be strong enough to hold that combination together and still be salable to Americans as "democracy".

Certainly the course taken has not alleviated or resolved that tension, but it's not entirely clear that any alternative course would have fared better, given the extent and depth of the antipathies in play... and of course interference and manipulation from Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and others was always going to be part of the picture and should have been assumed from the start.

I'm also not convinced that removing the top tiers of the Iraqi military and police would have solved many problems... or that it wouldn't have created more problems. Even if you removed the top tier, how do you think the Shi'a and Kurds would have felt about seeing the same individuals who shot their sons, burned their houses, broke down their doors, etc still wearing those uniforms and still wielding the power of the state? Changing the top tier may look good from our perspective, looking top down, but looking from the street up gives a different view.

My perspective on that may admittedly be shaped by living in a place where state security forces are hated and distrusted as a result of abuses in the past. That hate isn't directed at the top tier, it's directed at the bottom: at the people who actually did the abusing. Of course the top tier isn't liked either, but the people they really react to are the individuals in uniform, the ones they remember pulling triggers. That may or may not apply in Iraq, or anywhere else, but it's a perspective that should be considered. Knowing that General X has been sacked doesn't mean much when Sergeant Y, who tortured and killed your next door neighbor, is still walking down the street with a gun and a uniform.

Winning is achieving your objectives. If we speak of "losing the peace", we have to ask what we lost, what our objectives for the peace were... and whether those objectives were ever realistic.

1. "I suspect that this was likely to be the case in any post-Saddam disposition, and I don't see how it relates to American failure to "win hearts and minds". Even if we had won more of those, would that have resolved the differences between Shi'a, Sunni, and Kurd, or made them more likely to cooperate?" Winning their hearts and minds would have marginalized the Iranian influence in Iraq. Yes it would have made them more likely to cooperate, especially combined with fully engaging the tribal sheikhs. The tribal sheikhs could and would have helped us influence the general population, further marginalizing the Iranians.

2. "I suspect that the US underestimated from the start the difficulty of overcoming that legacy and creating a government that would be strong enough to hold that combination together and still be salable to Americans as "democracy". Why must the new Iraqi government be “salable to Americans as “democracy’?" In my mind the objective was to stand-up a government that was secure of outside influence, stable and friendly to the Americans. Am I missing something here? Were we mandated to make it a democracy, in our image or were we to stabilize the country. The tribal sheikhs could have done that with our help and met our requirements for stability. One of our major faults is trying to overlay our form of government on everyone else.

3. "I'm also not convinced that removing the top tiers of the Iraqi military and police would have solved many problems... or that it wouldn't have created more problems. Even if you removed the top tier, how do you think the Shi'a and Kurds would have felt about seeing the same individuals who shot their sons, burned their houses, broke down their doors, etc still wearing those uniforms and still wielding the power of the state?" Of course, beyond the top couple of tiers, a selection process would have to have been conducted to weed out the ones that had committed those crimes. Not all police nor military supported Saddam to point of committing crimes against the general population. Those that did would obviously not have been included in the new police or military. Those that committed these crimes should have been discharged from service and charges brought against them for prosecution. I am not suggesting otherwise, I was trying not to get into the specifics of how a program such as I suggested would work. It is obviously more complex that I can cover in this document.

4. "Winning is achieving your objectives. If we speak of "losing the peace", we have to ask what we lost, what our objectives for the peace were... and whether those objectives were ever realistic." I would say that the peace objectives were to establish a stable Iraq, free of outside influence, strong enough to protect itself and its’ citizens and friendly to the US, with strong ties to the Western Worlds’ economic and political systems. This way they don’t become a force we have to face again in the foreseeable future. As it is, they are supported by and friendly to Iran, hostile to the US and when Iran gains control of Iraq, could again become more hostile to us. Iraq has tolerated us because of the money and military equipment we have given them.

Building on Dayuhan's post, and although Mr Jones presents a very thoughtful article based on many many years of experience and hard service to the nation, it still represents an over-emphasis in the American Army (that we have had with us during and since Vietnam) that the ultimate solution to success in war is getting better at tactics. Whether that be the tactics of ALB in the 80s, network centric warfare of the 90s, or Coin of the new millennium, it is this troubling notion in the American army that better tactics and a couple of good generals can rescue any war that is being fought under a failed strategy.

Iraq expert Reidar Visser had it spot on right in a NY Times oped a few weeks ago that Iraq has turned out the way it has not because of the tactical method of occupation, the tragedy of Abu Graib, or the Surge, but because of mistakes made along the way with strategy and policy.

gian

Sir, I have obviously missed and not communicated the point of the entire article. Tactics are only one element of the problem. I must have mis-communicated the needed interface with the local nationals, the tribal sheikhs, reassignment of conventional military to traditional roles and having unconventional military assume responsibility for the unconventional effort.

The entire paper was to point out mistakes we made along the way.

Thank you for helping make my points.

John

Dear John:

No i understood your points very well and as i said the piece is a thoughtful and useful explanation of your ideas on these matters based on many years of hard service to the nation.

The things you mention above, though, like interfacing with local nationals, tribal sheiks, etc as I see it are very much a part of the tactical suite of counterinsurgency, aka armed nation building.

For whatever it is worth, the key lesson for me from these two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and my personal experience in Iraq) and from my study of the history of the Vietnam War, and military history in general is that in war some times armies learn and adapt quite well at tactics and sill lose the war. We probably disagree on Vietnam but one can find in the primary record all kinds of learning and adapting going on by the American Army, but we still lost the war. We lost that war in my view because of a failure of strategy and policy.

thanks for listening

gian

A lot of what the author stated was lost in the rant, but for the most I agree with him. On the other hand, based on the underlying the sociopolitical environment I'm not convinced that following his advise would have resulted in a win. First off we didn't lose the peace, any illusion of peace was largely due persistent security operations. As the author understands based on his background there was a still a high level of violence taking place in the shadows and all sides were jockeying advantage to be better positioned to fight when the doomed political process we imposed failed. Second, this war was not always unconventional, but it should have been. The decisive phase in 02/03 (probably through 04) was considered to be the defeat of Saddam's Armed Forces and the subsequent removal of Saddam. At best this was an enabling phase for the gradiose ideas that followed. The Army and USG was very much without a strategy post phase III. We failed to follow our own doctrine, which was to begin with the end in mind. If we approached as a unconventional conflict (not just SF and the CIA) and worked out political agreements prior to the assault and then quickly transitioned to the agreed upon arrangements the outcome may have been different, but still not without bloodshed due to the ethnic rivalaries and competition for economic resources. We can argue the merits of the invasion in the first place for years to come, but in the end for those of us who are or were in the military at the time, that argument didn't matter. We were told to accomplish a task, and we were obligated to do it. If we had someone other Rumfield leading OSD it "may" have turned out differently, but will remain forever unknown also. UW is not just tactics, it is a strategic approach that is much more comprehensive than a heavy military approach to solving a problem. Large scale conventional operations could play a large and critical role to enable a UW strategy in some cases, but that needs to be subordinate and in support of the UW campaign objectives. An argument can be made that Navy and Air Force (NATO) was a critical enabler (but not decisive) in the UW campaign in Libya.

Outlaw09 was right when he wrote we need to hear these voices, but the voices are all too often drowned out, as though we're yelling into the wind. The sad truth is when its a big conflict and we deploy a large number of forces, we also deploy a large number of senior officers with destructive egos and objectives that are often more about self-promotion than actually facilitating the best strategy. That same problem has effected SF for years, it is not limited to conventional forces. We would often be better off with a few military members led by a MAJ without excessive overhead. A small team that would be informed by their actions and their interactions with the environment instead of informed by power point slides produced by staffs that several layers removed from the real fight.

Mr. Jones, OIF had been a series of false narratives and in-denials from beginning to end. And even now, there's the in-denial thinking regarding the $11 billion dollar arms deal to Iraq. Get this - the justification is to make Iraq strong enough to counter its Iran threat. Hell, Saudi Arabia is now their main threat and Iran their ally. One can even claim Iraq is now a member of the resistance camp to Zionism.

But that $11 billion dollar arms deal - either the military industrial complex just can't help itself from its own greed, or they are in complete denial, or they're feeble minded - maybe all of the above!

One thing's pretty obvious: the Iranians are hoping that arms transfer goes through in full. They see it as a substantial military gain attached to their column.

Sir, thank you for you support and understanding. I agree with you that if the arms deal goes through, any of the arms that Iran wants, they will get. Therefore, in future, we may be up against our own equipment and technology. I think that we should reconsider the deal and anything with state-of-the-art technology should be eliminated from the deal. You know its great having to design and develop technology to counter our own technology. It's very profitable.

John