Splitting the Sunni’s Insurgency

Efforts to subdue the Sunni insurgency has three dimensions: political, economic and military. Zalmay Khalilzad, Ambassador to Iraq, in a recent interview in Newsweek, discussed the political efforts to draw elements of the Sunni population from supporting the insurgency. Ambassador Khalilzad sees very real opportunities to cleave off elements of the insurgency which are not beholden to the Saddamists or jihadists. His words should be listened to closely as he has engineered highly successful political deals in both Afghanistan and in Iraq:

Hersch: Let’s talk about the Sunni insurgency. It seems as if the strategy of trying to divide extremists from those Iraqi Sunnis with whom we can negotiate has been central to your approach.

Khalilzad: Absolutely.

Hersch: Could you talk about which Sunni insurgent groups you are hopeful about winning away?

Khalilzad: My philosophy is that we need to isolate two groups from the rest. The first is [Abu Musab] Zarqawi and the jihadists, some foreign and some Iraqis. And the second is the Saddamists, those who want Saddamism to come back. As far as the rest are concerned, our effort has been to win them away. I have been very active with Sunni Arabs, reaching out to them.

Hersch: On the tribal level?

Khalilzad: Across the board. Tribes, yes. Nontribal political leaders, yes. Academics, professionals, yes. Some former government officials who were not criminals, yes. You name it.

Hersch: What particular successes can you point to?

Khalilzad: One is we’ve got some key Sunnis supporting the Constitution. Second, many more are supporting the political process. Now we have some tribes coming forward, like the Albu Mahal, that are saying they will fight against Zarqawi. So what’s happening for maybe the first time since the liberation is a real struggle going on in the Sunni community between those who want to participate in the process and those who want a protracted insurgency.

We have seen evidence of this policy over the course of the past few months, including the Albu Mahal’s fight with al Qaeda on the Syrian border, the agreement by three prominent Sunni parties not to boycott the constitutional referrendum, and most recently, an amnesty offer to junior officers of Saddam’s defunct army. Iraq’s Minister of Defense Saadoun Dulaimi has stated officers of the rank of major and below “who wish to rejoin the new Iraqi army to serve the precious homeland should go to recruitment centers opened around the country…”

No single amnesty offer or other program will defeat the insurgency, but they set the stage for chipping away at the insurgents who are weary of fighting and recognize the futility of fighting the increasingly effective Iraqi Secrity Forces. They now have options other than violence, and this is critical in bringing in the saner elements of the insurgency.

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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  • ET USN 71-78 says:

    Once again, having good people at the right place and at the right time is proving invaluable. Ambassador Khalilzad is a good case in point. I commend President Bush and his team, who have generally done very well in bringing excellent people into important positions.
    The amnesty offer to junior officers sounds like a good idea, but only if there is a very thorough vetting process before allowing them to reenter military service, followed by careful monitoring of their performance and behavior once they have returned to service to verify they will be trustworthy and suitable soldiers. They may be too hard to retrain.

  • Justin Capone says:

    The Sunni community won’t seriously split until after the December election when Iraq has serious Sunni representation and those Sunni leaders are being targeted by the insurgents. That will be the point where the elected Sunni leaders will start to mass mobilize Sunnis against the insurgents. The elected Sunni leaders aren’t going to accept the insurgent leaders claim to power in the community and vice versa.

  • Chicago Station says:

    Wasn’t this “major and below” officer policy always the case even under Bremer’s CPA.
    There was vetting for Bath Party rank but I distinctly remember officers at the rank of major and below in the old army were eligible.
    Am I wrong here?

  • Dawn Patrol

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  • Rick says:

    The language of power in Iraq is money. Tribes, clans, religious sect, ethnic group are important. Money trumps all since money buys information, allies, and western security personnel.

  • ikez78 says:

    OT – Big shot al Qaeda guy caught in Pakistan (Syrian) //www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,174403,00.html
    Does anyone know of any stories of us gaining intel from Pakistan/Afghanistan detainees that has aided us in Iraq or vice versa?

  • C-Low says:

    Fourth is a goal of collapsing the enemy internally rather than physically destroying him. Targets will include such things as the population’s support for the war and the enemy’s culture. Correct identification of enemy strategic centers of gravity will be highly important.
    In broad terms, fourth generation warfare seems likely to be widely dispersed and largely undefined; the distinction between war and peace will be blurred to the vanishing point. It will be nonlinear, possibly to the point of having no definable battlefields or fronts. The distinction between “civilian” and “military” may disappear. Actions will occur concurrently throughout all participants’ depth, including their society as a cultural, not just a physical, entity. Major military facilities, such as airfields, fixed communications sites, and large headquarters will become rarities because of their vulnerability; the same may be true of civilian equivalents, such as seats of government, power plants, and industrial sites (including knowledge as well as manufacturing industries). Success will depend heavily on effectiveness in joint operations as lines between responsibility and mission become very blurred. Again, all these elements are present in third generation warfare; fourth generation will merely accentuate them.
    This report was 1989′ these guys need to be in the stradegy room

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    “The language of power in Iraq is money”
    Ask any US congressman, people without jobs vote for for the “other guy”.

  • cjr says:

    Its the triumph of Clausewitz: “War is the continuation of (politics) by other means.”
    A couple of other quotes that are applicable:
    “Given the same amount of intelligence, timidity will do a thousand times more damage than audacity”

  • James says:

    We are now at 2038 casulties wereas little over a week ago we were at 2000. Whatever we are doing to stop the IEDs clearly is not nearly enough. The enemy can kill us endlessly with these things. One of my biggest criticisms of the war has been the lack of imagination at dealing with some of these kind of problems. The enemy certainly is not growing, but it is being allowed to become more and more deadly without sufficient countermeasures.

  • Marlin says:

    James –
    I believe it would be unfair to say that there has been a lack of imagination of the part of the troops in combatting IEDs. I don’t have an article handy that lists all the changes, but they are clearly a thinking enemy that adapts to changes by our troops.
    The first IEDs were simply old shells with wires running to the operator. When the operators kept being caught/shot they went to remote detonation. When the troops armored there vehicles, multiple explosives were wired together and later ‘shaped’ charges were added. The troops have also added jamming gear that prevents remote detonation. I believe I read somewhere yesterday that 90-95% of all IEDs fail. Not that we still shouldn’t try to improve.
    There is an article about this very subject that came out today in the LA Times.
    “With Iraqi insurgents building ever-more powerful homemade bombs, the Pentagon is finalizing plans to put a high-level general in charge of a new task force that will try to harness the expertise of the CIA, FBI, businesses and academics to combat the guerrillas’ most lethal weapon.
    The Pentagon has devoted two years to finding ways to combat the makeshift bombs, known as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. Yet in the view of some senior generals, the IED problem remains a low priority in Washington. “The field commanders are saying: ‘This country can put a man on the moon. Why can’t it solve this problem?’ ” said one senior Defense official, who requested anonymity.
    [ ]
    Under the plans, the new task force would be led by an active-duty three-star general or admiral, or a retired four-star officer. The budget has not been determined. Pentagon officials said the plans were in their final stages and awaiting Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s approval.
    A small task force launched in July 2004 and led by a one-star officer, Army Brig. Gen. Joseph Votel, has been credited with developing various technologies to combat the IED threat, such as equipping soldiers with electronic devices to detonate the makeshift bombs before they can damage U.S. military convoys. The task force has an annual budget of about $1.2 billion”.
    Pentagon Sets Its Sights on Roadside Bombs

  • cjr says:

    The reason that we dont hear much about what we are doing about IED is probably because its highly classified.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    From todays Baghdad briefing –
    In the last week, there were 569 hostile acts.
    40% of hose hostile acts were IED’s.
    That makes for roughly 225 IED’s in one week.
    13 of those IED’s resulted in a US Fatality.
    6% of IED’s produced a US Fatality.
    6% of Apollo Moonshots produced a US Fatality. Almost 2% of Space Shuttle flights result in a fatality.
    Considering that the people who built the Space Shuttle and Apollo rockets were not trying to kill people, and the people who build IED’s are trying to kill people, the Pentagon is doing a pretty good job of countering the threat.
    The real answer is locating all the munitions buried out in the middle of the desert which is a huge undertaking, considering the Chinese are still locating munitions that the Japanense buried during WWII.

  • Justin Capone says:

    I agree not enough has been done to neutralize the IED threat, which is the one threat that could beat us in Iraq by beating us politically here at home.
    If it were up to me I would hire several thousand Iraqis with high quality metal detectors to find and get rid of the munitions in the desert.
    I would also take a number of other steps, like putting tracking devices on IEDs and keeping trying anything and everything on a daily basis to deal with the problem. The military does work to solve the IED problem, but the Pentagon has always reminded me of a lumbering giant, they are slow to uncover problems and even slower to find solutions and impliment them.

  • MG says:

    What about US casualties that result from the US offensive in Anbar?
    Last week, I read about pressure triggered IED’s. At one time, we called them “land mines”. We don’t call them that now, I presume, because they are not the result of standardized production, and because the UN bans the use of land mines.
    PS: tongue firmly in cheek on that last bit.

  • chicago Station says:

    Also from today’s briefing:
    Roughly 211,000 members of the Iraqi army and police are trained and equipped, Lynch said. The current 111,000 Iraqi police are well over half of the anticipated full force of 195,000.
    The Iraqi Defense Ministry created a localized unit, known as “Desert Protectors,” in Anbar province. The Iraqi army unit will complete training shortly. “They’ve got amazing access to intelligence,” Lynch said. “These are the people of al Anbar saying ‘We want to be part of evicting the insurgents from our province,’ and they joined to be used in their province.”
    Coalition officials have established a counterinsurgency academy in Taji. The academy will use lessons learned from the war to teach counterinsurgency techniques to coalition and Iraqi company commanders and above.

  • Marlin says:

    Chicago Station –
    This is really great news about the Desert Protectors. I first heard about this on October 19 at StrategyPage/The Fourth Rail. I had no idea this concept would produce troops within another week or two (or whatever shortly means).

  • ricksamerican says:

    Wretchard discussed IEDs and creative countermeasures under development in a post last summer.

  • vuc says:

    The passage of the constitution and all the conspiracy theories set back our goals of getting the moderate Sunnis on board significantly. Insurgent violence seems to have risen since then, probably because many Sunnis believed that the political process has failed them. It’s crucial that Sunnis have real representation in the next election and that this constitution is amended very quickly afterwards. Otherwise, the problems in the Sunni triangle will never end.
    In my opinion, the constitution should be amended according to the Lebanon model. All parties must have Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish representatives in order to run in elections. Sectarian parties should not be competing with each other in the way that it is today because somebody is always going to lose out. Once the party is elected, it should be a power sharing agreement between 3 main leaders (one of each group) with the Prime Minister having to be a Shiite and two Presidents, one of whom must be a Sunni Arab and the other of whom must be a Kurd. All 3 leaders must agree on all main decisions, especially those involving war and peace.

  • Rob says:

    I have not heard much about the
    tipping point recently. The growth
    of the Iraqi security forces puts tremendous
    pressure on Al Quaeda and the insurgents.
    Where will they go if they have to scramble
    out of there?

  • Justin Capone says:

    Insurgent violence seems to have risen since then, probably because many Sunnis believed that the political process has failed them.
    The number of US deaths were up in October, because the insurgents are getting more shaped charges from Iran and Iran has also started to ship dynamite that is 7 times stronger then what the insurgents have.
    The current regime in Iran has increased our problems and the UKs problems in Iran greatly.

  • # 10 Marlin
    I think your 90-95% reference comes from Yon’s report on the referendum.

  • hamidreza says:

    vuc – your model constitution is a DOA loser. Sectarian gerrymandering in the constitution is one of Lebanon’s woes, and all the parties there agree that it is a terrible idea.
    There is essentially nothing to stop the Sunnis from participating and receiving 25% of the Parliamentary seats. If they don’t, then it will be their own fault. You can’t blame the Americans for that too bad.


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