Monday, March 06, 2006

# Posted 3:26 PM by Patrick Porter  

A NEW STRATEGY: Kenneth Pollack argues that the US needs a new strategy in combating the insurgency in Iraq. Among other measures, he claims that it must make its immediate goals more modest. Currently its forces are overstretched against guerrillas and militia groups. According to Pollack, it should stop going on the offensive into the Sunni heartland with its many enclaves of invisible cells. This weakens the US-led coalition’s overall presence in the country.

Instead, it must concentrate its forces and then slowly expand them, like a 'spreading oil stain' in key centres in the centre and south, slowly extending its dominance over the country. Then the strongholds of the insurgency will be more isolated. Their fighters will have to attack US dominated territories rather than vice versa. Iraqi security forces which hitherto have proven fragile in combat, sometimes melting away, will be given more time for training and experience. American forces will better be able to establish the legitimacy of the post-Saddam federal democracy by scattering insurgents from most of the rest of the country. Instead of aiming for large-scale sweeping victories, it should concentrate on more achievable and incremental goals.

There must be some policy wonks out there whose interest is asymmetric warfare. Any thoughts on this?
(6) opinions -- Add your opinion

I'm not a policy wonk, but...

Kenneth Pollacks' idea sounds good in theory, and might have been a better plan than the one actually chosen at the begining of the insurgency.

But it would have to be a dramatically better plan to justify the disruption that would be caused by switching course at this late date. And I don't see how it is dramatically better.
You can do it that way, or do it the way we ARE doing it...our mobility allows us to apply force flexibly across the battlefield, once we identify a target.

There is no silver bullet to counterinsurgency. The key is having the will to apply the force available against identified threats and high-priority targets.

Identify--evaluate--engage--evaluate--identify....It's a continuous, fluid process that starts with intelligence. The ultimate goal is to make it untenable to resist.

The rest is how close or far away the forces come from to engage the target the intelligence has supplied.

Of course, a continuous presence in a targeted region certainly facilitates the acquisition of that intelligence, especially as you increase the participation of the locals in the intel-gathering process.

Pulling out and re-starting, as deant said above, is a non-starter.

My $0.02.
David Brooks recomended the "oil spot" idea about a year ago. The main idea is to make life safe, pleasant and productive within the oil spot. Iraqi's will work to make their area safe because life is getting better. I thought that we had been doing this for a while, Tal Afar etc...
Brooks took his cue from a Foreign Affairs article last summer by Andrew Krepinevich (whom Pollack does mention). It is not surprising that Krepinevich drew his conclusions as a Vietnam scholar: one of the notable American successes in Vietnam was the progress that Special Forces made on the individual village-level.

While the case that the U.S. invaded Iraq with too few troops is certainly persuasive, it is tantalizing to imagine what might have been done had we better utilized those troops. In Vietnam, Special Forces teams were able to stabilize local populations very effectively with small numbers of troops. But here's the rub; they were less mobile and more staionary than our typical image of the Green Berets. They were not so much Rumsfeld's lean, swift forces as lean, stable forces ('imperial grunts', perhaps?). Securing populations is not a quick in & out procedure; it is practical rather than romantic. The looting in the early days of this war was a large-scale example of what we very well may have failed to do at the local level on much smaller scales.

This sort of thing does seem to be going on (as Jonathan Hammer showed in last week's TNR article on Special Forces in Africa)--but it does not seem to be happening in enough places in Iraq.

In fairness I'm neither in the military nor a wonk--just someone who happened to have had 2 different Vietnam War professors who were veterans rather than lefties and had their own strong beliefs on what could have been. (Thus I'm afraid I don't have statistics or even sources to recommend--I'm going on memory.)

I fear that our current leaders may have already helped set a new generation upon a similar course of regretful 'what ifs' that my two ex-professors have now made their careers studying.
Bradley F., my previous comment should have been more specific. When I said Brooks suggested it I meant that the first time I heard this was on Newshour with Lehrer.
This advice from Messrs. Krepinevich and Pollack is at least two years stale.

Most of the policing and patroling of Iraq is now done by Iraqis, and virtually all of it will be by the summer. Coalition forces are now focused on training, advice, and support.

The Sunni insurgency is winding down as the major problem in Iraq. Indeed, the Sunnis are quickly coming to the realization that driving the coalition out of Iraq could be disastrous for them.

Iraq's looming problem will not be the Sunni insurgency but rather a clash between the secular and Sunni bits of the government, defended by a coalition-trained and competent Iraqi army versus the Iranian-supported Shi'ite religious parties and their religious militias.

The Coalition will not be involved with this fight, except to the extent that it supports, behind the scenes, the Iraqi army. "Oil spot" strategies and counter-insurgency methods will be largely irrelevant.

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