The insurgency tries its hand once more at a massed assault, this time on an Iraqi police station in Baghdad. Omar from Iraq The Model directs us to an article in the Guardian on the assault, and rightly points out the negative slant in the article (hat tip to Soldier’s Dad). The Guardian titles this one “Iraq insurgents snatch victory from defeat“, but it is clear this attack was a massive military defeat.
There are no indications if this was al Qaeda, but I suspect they likely planned this with elements of Ansar al-Sunnah, the Islamic Army in Iraq and the People’s Mujahedeed, who recently joined into a pact. The insurgents massed a force of 100 fighters, and planned this battle well. They struck at the police station with mortars, RPGs, suicide bombs and an infantry assault, as well pinned down Iraqi forces at a nearby base and set up ambushes along routes that US and Iraqi Army units would us to relieve the Iraqi police station.
The Iraqi police held their ground and repelled the assault without assistance. The training of the Iraqi police assisted in their victory. And the Iraqi citizens played their part.
By 6.30am a police machine-gunner on the roof at Baya’a helped turn the tide, firing volleys which forced attackers to take cover and enabled his comrades to take better positions. Residents of the mixed Shia and Sunni neighbourhood made at least 55 phone calls informing the police of insurgent movements. Some fired on the attackers.
This is not the Army, mind you, who would have more training and experience repelling an infantry assault.
The insurgent assault force of 100 suffered 10 killed and 40 captured. No indications on the wounded, but if past actions are any indication, we can guess they were about two to three times the number killed, giving a killed/wounded/capture rate of anywhere from 50 to 80% of the assault force. These are staggering numbers that quickly demoralize fighters, no matter what their ideological bent. Like the attacks on Abu Ghraib and Camp Gannon, the insurgency is wasting time, energy, resources and bodies for little gain other than some press.
The Guardian makes the inevitable and predictable comparison to Tet, but to their credit actually gets it right; ” Lt Col Funk worried about similarities to the Tet offensive, a 1968 push by North Vietnamese forces which failed militarily but whose scale and surprise gave the impression that the US and its allies were failing. “The media got Tet wrong and they’re getting Iraq wrong. We are winning but people won’t know that if all they are hearing about is death and violence.””
This is a clear military and political victory for the Iraqi government. Their much maligned police forces fended off a coordinated assault on their own, their citizens assisted by providing tips and actually attacking the enemy fighters. The Iraqi Security Forces have yet to meet their full potential. The insurgency will learn that attacking Iraqi positions isn’t as easy as it seems, and will be forced to either throw themselves into further senseless battles or commit acts of terror against weaker targets – Iraqi citizens – and further alienate themselves to the population.
Reader Enigma conducts an excellent fisking of Max Hastings’ “Two Years on, the Echoes of Vietnam are Getting Louder” over at Strategy Page’s forum.