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April 19, 2007
Beyond the Surge, The StrategyBy Greyhawk
(A companion piece to this entry can be read here: Slaughter)
BAGHDAD - A suicide car bomber killed 12 people outside a Baghdad take-away shop on Thursday, one day after 190 people died in a bombing blitz that brought into question the US-backed security plan for the capital.One thing generally absent within stories that bring "into question the US-backed security plan for the capital" are any attempts to answer said questions. But explanations of exactly what Coalition Forces are doing are available and unclassified - in the broader details - thus there's no valid reason to leave the reader to conclude that the answer is "nothing".
But for reasons as inexplicable as the motives behind suicide attacks on university students, most reporters are content to do just that.
Kudos to the New York Times (yes, the New York Times) for not leaving that gap in their report on this week's atrocities:
American commanders have said that the Baghdad security effort has reduced the kinds of sectarian killings associated with Shiite death squads, in part because of the decision by many militia fighters to lay low. But the plan has failed to curb the spectacular attacks, many of them suicide bombings, that have become a gruesome hallmark of the Sunni Arab-led insurgent group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. As a result, commanders say, overall civilian casualty rates are actually higher now than they were before the plan was initiated.With only 60% of the surge troops deployed, there are obvious holes in the perimeter. But the strategy is in place to take those into account:
Before the surge of forces, the 1st Cavalry Division headquarters was commanding the Multi-National Division-Baghdad (MND-B). Major General Joseph Fil Jr had responsibility for all the forces in Iraq’s capitol city, a city the size of Los Angeles with a population of more than 6 million. With the addition of several new brigades, it was painfully obvious that the 1st CAV HQ would need some assistance. A new command was established called the Multi-National Division-Central (MND-C) and this command was given responsibility for the brigades on Baghdad’s outskirts.As the New York Times reported,
“A high-priority mission is finding these car bomb factories and getting rid of them, and capturing and killing the terrorists who make the bombs,” Colonel Garver said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. Because of the complexity of building a car bomb — the process can require a near-complete dismantling of the vehicle — most are probably made in sparsely populated areas where the work can be more easily concealed, the American commanders say.i.e., not Baghdad, but "the belts".
Side note: Joe Biden, perhaps through lack of knowledge of the situation, recently attempted to point to the belts as a failure of the strategy:
While violence against Iraqis is down in some Baghdad neighborhoods where we have "surged" forces, it is up dramatically in the belt ringing Baghdad. The civilian death toll increased 15 percent from February to March. Essentially, when we squeeze the water balloon in one place, it bulges somewhere else.While his very use of the term "belt" suggests he knows full well he's giving a half truth (and disparaging our efforts), I'll acknowledge that fighting terrorists won't reduce violence until the fight is over - but then return to explaining the plan.
Take a look at a map and the strategy becomes clear. Multi-National Division - Baghdad (MND-B), Multi-National Division-Central (MND-C), and Multi-National Force - West (the Marines and Soldiers in Anbar) divide responsibility for three connected geographic regions that are the focus of the strategy for Iraq. All, along with coalition forces in other areas of Iraq, are under the command of General Petraeus, Commanding General, Mutli-National Force - Iraq (MNF-I).
While Iraqi Army troops are also a significant factor in the surge - these will be the last areas for which security authority will be transferred. (And by the way - the American goal is to leave Iraq. The difference in American political Party views is the definition of victory and their vision of the land left behind.)
Meanwhile, back to the New York Times:
The Baghdad security plan calls for 28,000 additional American troops, as well as thousands of Iraqi soldiers, most of whom will be deployed in the streets of the violent capital in an attempt to pacify it. But Mr. Maliki said the gradual transfer to Iraqi authority would continue, with three provinces in the relatively tranquil region of Kurdistan the next to come under Iraqi security authority, followed by Karbala and Wasit Provinces in the south.That end of the year prediction might be overly optimistic - but I could be wrong. An important distinction: Provinces under Iraqi authority are not free of violence or threat of future failures - they are simply locations where authority has been transferred. While Baghdad and Anbar are essential to ultimate success, al Qaeda retains obvious ability to choose battlefields in Iraq, and the struggle goes on.
For now, with the surge as yet incomplete, Baghdad violence increases - but Anbar is heading in another direction altogether. This is not amazing coincidence. The bad guys have "limited resources" too - they are not as invincible or unbeatable as Joe Biden (or anyone else) would have you believe - and they are feeling "the squeeze".
It's an early effort in a long war, but for a look at the implementation of the "belt" strategy thus far, here's Bill Roggio.
And for some finer details on the strategy, read this.
Posted by Greyhawk / April 19, 2007 5:01 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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