Another Failed Attack

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.

Also Read:

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.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Enigma says:

    A negative slant in The Guardian? Shocking I say, absolutely shocking!
    But seriously, whether the insurgents are acting out of desperation or calculation (probably both), they are attacking the US center of gravity: public opinion. And media outlets like The Guardian, whether by accident or by design (probably both), are involved in a symbiotic relationship with the insurgents.
    As you probably already know, Bill, I reject “simplistic historical comparisons” between Iraq and Vietnam. But there is one comparison that I think is clearly valid: the war in Iraq is being fought as much in the media as on the battlefields, just like Vietnam.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Agreed, the media is doing their best to play the same role as they did in Vietnam. I read your fising after writing this, nice job, and I updated the post with a link to your fisking…

  • Pejmanesque says:


    But I see that a marvelous Fisking has already occurred. I might add that all of the dark bloviations about how the United States seeks “supremacy” and “domination” of the world is yet another reason to think that Hobsbawm’s language…

  • PeterArgus says:

    The Guardian: The combination of heavy shelling, diversionary feints, infantry thrusts and suicide vehicles – the “precision-guided” equivalent of tanks – left parts of the district of Hi al-Elam a smoking ruin. If the objective was to overrun the station and free its prisoners the offensive failed. The attackers retreated after two hours, leaving dozens dead and captured. But if the objective was to send a message of power and determination it succeeded.
    Okay so by Guardian rules the Taliban in Afghanistan is doing an absolutely bang-up job. According to their springtime offensive has been remarkably effective. Remember it has been over 3 years since major combat in Afghanistan. And remember military expert Diane Feinstein has informed us this one is truely over – free the “POWs”. But apparently things are going so well for the Taliban that “since March, 465 suspected insurgents have been killed at the cost of 29 US troops, 38 Aghan police and soldiers and 125 civilians”. Just yesterday the Afghan army counted 76 rebel bodies on a battlefield. Now if the objective of the Taliban offensive was to well, I dunno, gain control of territory or shut down the government or one of those conventional interpretations of victories I guess they…. lost. But if the message was to send a message of power and determination they succeeded at least on the determination part of the equation. Time to set a timetable.

  • peterargus says:

    …for withdrawal from Afghanistan.

  • Dan says:

    Great reminder on the different aspects of Tet. The insurgents are relying on having a friendly battlespace in the media. The Guardian is happy to oblige.

  • zen_less says:

    Your capacity for self-delusion is astonishing. Hmm…wasn’t Operation Lightning supposed to have killed ALL the insurgents? Weren’t we supposed to be “turning the corner?” Anyone who has studied war knows that attacking the enemy when they think they have you on the run is a very effective tool, even if the attack is a failure.

  • Mixed Humor says:

    Interesting read Bill, thanks.

  • peterargus says:

    I suppose it was “self-delusion” that led the US Marines to finally declare victory in Okinawa at the end of June 1945. After all they continued almost up to the final weeks of the 3 month battle to confront ferocious counterattacks from the Japanese all of which failed.
    The comparison is apt because even after the Japanese were no longer an militarily effective offensive force they could still launch psychologically devastating aerial suicide attacks on the US Navy even after the battle ended. Likewise we witness attacks by “insurgents” on military and police targets that result in heavy losses for the enemy and no objectives taken. On the other hand their suicide attacks on unarmed targets are more effective.
    By your definition (or the Guardian’s for that matter) you could call virtually any enemy action a victory, even a rout.

  • davod says:

    The war is being fought in the media. The problem is the people fighting the media war are the same as in the 70s. This time though they are in positions of liberal power in the US.

  • eLarson says:

    Hmm…wasn’t Operation Lightning supposed to have killed ALL the insurgents?

    Even if Operation Lightning had been able to kill every single “insurgent” in Iraq, that doesn’t preclude more from coming.

    Iraq is a roach motel for jihadis everywhere.

  • vucommodore says:

    Yes, every time they can attack and cause chaos, it is a victory for them. A victory for the United States is stopping them from being able to effectively cause chaos and casualties.
    They are terrorists but if you look at history, terrorists usually win when the other side decides that it’s not in their best interest to fight forever.
    Southern Lebanon, Israel (the irgun terrorists who founded israel and the palestinian ones who bombed them to the negotiating table), Algeria, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan (Russians)

  • Flies on the paper

    The Flypaper theory has come under much derision since it was proposed, but it is difficult to deny the US presence in Iraq has attracted important and hard to detect members of al Qaeda….


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