Task Force Warhorse: Classical counterinsurgency on Haifa Street

By Wesley Morgan, who is currently embedded in Iraq. Wes writes for The Daily Princetonian and was invited to embed in Iraq by Gen. David Petraeus. His assignment in Iraq is sponsored and financed by Public Multimedia Inc.

In the tactical operations center here on Forward Operating Base Union III, a huge poster is emblazoned with the slogan “Army Strong – Cav Tough.” From what I’ve seen in the past few days as I’ve lived and ridden with the Stryker cavalry Task Force based here, called Task Force Warhorse, that slogan is true enough, but could just as well read “Army Strong – Cav Smart.” This unit – two cavalry troops and an infantry company, headquartered by the 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry – has been in three different areas of operations in the past year and has been engaged in an enormous spectrum of operations, from neighborhood cleanup to a multiple-day, full-squadron assault on enemy positions.

Yet in its current area, based around the notorious Haifa Street in Baghdad’s Karkh security district, it has managed, with few kinks, to transition from assault mode to classical-style counterinsurgency and counter-organized crime operations that require not force and firepower but finesse and an unbelievable amount of patience. How Task Force Warhorse and its commander, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Peterson, have conducted these operations should, from my perspective at least, stand as a model for the US Army as it strains to apply Gen. David Petraeus’ “surge” strategy in central Iraq. But before diving into what I’ve seen here in Karkh, I should give a bit of background about the three main elements of the story: the area of operations, the unit, and the commander.

“The most dangerous street in Iraq”

Time and again since the fall of Baghdad more than four years ago, the name “Haifa Street” has managed to creep into war coverage that until recently has mostly focused on just two place names, Baghdad and Fallujah. Why? Because time and again, Haifa Street has emerged as a safe haven for Sunni terrorist groups like al Qaeda in Iraq, Tawhid wal-Jihad, and others. The huge (by Iraqi standards) high-rise apartments present a frustrating obstacle for clearance by US troops. Reacting to these enemy concentrations, American forces and more recently Iraqi forces have popped up here from time to time, be they 82nd Airborne paratroopers or 1st Cav mechanized troops, cleared the area or some part of it, and just as quickly disappeared. By mid-2006, with no US units regularly patrolling the area and the Iraqi unit responsible for maintaining checkpoints extremely ineffective, Haifa Street was, once again, a terrorist stronghold.

What made the Haifa Street of 2006 different and more dangerous than the situation had been in 2004 and 2005 was the introduction of brutal sectarian violence into the mix. The street itself runs through a majority-Sunni area, but to the west (to the east is the Tigris) lies a band of neighborhoods that are Shiite-dominated. A couple blocks over from Haifa Street itself, another, smaller street effectively marks the boundary between these two areas. This area is a sectarian fault line between Shia and Sunni neighborhoods.

During the second half of 2006, the Mahdi Army grew increasingly aggressive throughout Baghdad, and, particularly in areas where there was no sustained US presence, it became the one organization that was really present on the streets and helped maintain services and security. The Mahdi Army also actively displaced or murdered Sunni residents from the areas it dominated, so as Haifa Street’s Shiites turned to the Mahdi Army for help, the Sunni were killed or pushed back into their own majority-Sunni areas, increasing the sharpness of the fault line. This problem was exacerbated by the Mahdi Army’s effective infiltration of many of the Iraqi units based in the area: Lt. Col. Peterson said that when his troops arrived, one full company of Iraqi troops “was 100 percent Jaish al-Mahdi.”

With no real US presence in the area and the Iraqi Security Forces dominated if not run by the same Mahdi Army that they needed protection against, Sunni residents turned toward extremist terrorist groups for assistance: the Iraqi and foreign insurgents who fell under al Qaeda in Iraq, the affiliated Abu Omar Brigades, and the similarly motivated but separate group Tawhid wal-Jihad promised to push back against the aggression of the Mahdi Army and provide security. They, too, of course, had a sectarian agenda: in addition to protecting the Sunni populace of Haifa Street against the Mahdi Army, they also killed as many of the remaining Shiite residents as possible and made the area a base for terrorist attacks in other parts of Baghdad.

By late 2006, with brutal killings by both sides rampant in the area and municipal services nonexistent, many of Haifa Street’s wealthier residents – the professors, doctors, and lawyers who inhabited the upscale high-rises – had fled with their families, leaving abandoned apartments that al Qaeda was quick to take over and use for housing. It was, according to Peterson, “the most dangerous street in Iraq.” At the very least, it was certainly on par with extremist-dominated places like Baqubah Arab Jabour, and Doura.

In January 2007, with al Qaeda, the Omar Brigades, and Tawhid wal-Jihad based in Haifa Street effectively unopposed, Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the commander of Multinational Corps Iraq (MNC-I) and main US operational commander, ordered a full-scale offensive to dislodge the enemy. With 1-23 Infantry as its main element, the unit responsible for quick-reaction duties in Baghdad, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division (3rd SBCT, 2nd ID), launched Operation Arrowhead Strike V, a battalion-plus-scale attack up Haifa Street. For days on end, the Strykers, infantry, and snipers of 1-23 Infantry, backed by Apache attack helicopters and precision-guided bombs, fought the Sunni enemy street by street and building by building. By February, after weeks of fierce fighting, al Qaeda and its allies had effectively been driven out of the Haifa Street area.

With a presence on Haifa Street no longer tenable for al Qaeda and Tawhid wal-Jihad, and with no US units patrolling the area after 1-23 Infantry moved on to another offensive elsewhere in Baghdad, the Mahdi Army was unopposed. During February and March, Shiite militia elements began to exert more control than ever before over Haifa Street, forcing the population to pay them for security, water, electricity, and other commodities and strong-arming local businesses into employing militia loyalists. “They had their fingers in everything, like the mafia,” one officer from Task Force Warhorse said; Peterson, his intelligence officer, and enlisted soldiers down through the ranks describe the Mahdi Army’s behavior as reminiscent of American organized crime. To roll the Mahdi Army back, a sustained US presence would be required, and with the “surge” forces arriving in and around Baghdad, there were enough American troops to provide one, for the first time in more than two years. So in April, Task Force Warhorse took charge of the area and began operations.

Task Force Warhorse

Task Force Warhorse is a small unit, but it is a battle-hardened one. At its core, it is 1-14 Cavalry, a Stryker reconnaissance squadron, but for the Iraq deployment, it surrendered one of its three cavalry troops (a troop is the cavalry equivalent of a company) and gained an infantry company, so that it was made up of these three elements: Apocalypse Troop (A/1-14 Cavalry), Crazyhorse Troop (C/1-14 Cavalry), and Charlie Rock Company (C/5-20 Infantry). For most of the deployment, a civil affairs team was also attached to the squadron. Apocalypse and Crazyhorse, the cavalry troops, are basically recon units, each with about 90 soldiers, while Charlie Rock, the infantry unit, has close to 170 soldiers, and has provided most of the Task Force’s dismounted combat power. There is naturally some tension between the cavalry troopers and the infantrymen, particularly since the larger infantry company is assigned more patrols than the smaller cavalry troops, but from what I have seen that tension does not seem strong enough to affect how the Task Force’s operates, and most of the infantrymen seem to trust the squadron leadership despite the difference in branch and culture.

When the squadron first arrived in Iraq and set up operations in July 2006, its area of operations was the part of the east Rashid security district known as south Doura. While north Doura was (and still is, with five US battalions at work there) a majority-Sunni area dominated by al Qaeda, south Doura was a mixed area. The neighborhoods of Abu Tashir and Mekanik, in particular, had large populations of both Sunni and Shiite and saw bloody fighting between al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army. Task Force Warhorse, based out of Forward Operating Base Falcon in Baghdad’s southern outskirts, was responsible for south Doura from July through this past March. During that time, its platoons and squads were often engaged in heavy fighting against both al Qaeda and the Shiite militias. At times these units came under fire from Mahdi Army-dominated police units. Sniper attacks and rockets, along with the occasional IED, were incessant problems, and the menace of al Qaeda car bomb attacks on majority-Shiite markets loomed large.

To protect against the specter of car bombs, the squadron created barriers into and out of the main market neighborhood of Mekanik. These barriers, combined with a complete ban on Iraqi forces inside the barriers to prevent them from intimidating or killing Sunni residents, slowly caused sectarian killings to decline. By February, with a smaller, neighborhood-run security zone now set up inside the main secure area, violence had declined steeply in south Doura. Then Task Force Warhorse was abruptly pulled out of the area and sent to Forward Operating Base Union III in the International or “Green” Zone; within weeks, the unit that replaced them, the newly built 1-4 Cavalry squadron of the 1st Infantry Division, quickly lost control over the area.

At Union III, Task Force Warhorse was told that it would soon take over operations on Haifa Street, but first, it had an offensive to launch. Task Force Warhorse was ordered to storm the Mahdi Army-infiltrated city of Diwaniyah in the Polish area of operations down on the Euphrates. After planning and preparations, the squadron drove from Union III down to Forward Operating Base Kalsu, near Iskandariyah, where it stayed for a few days to stage, and then attacked directly into Diwaniyah. The most intense part of the fighting, reminiscent of the Euphrates city battles of 2003 or smaller versions of the Fallujah and Baqubah ffensives, lasted 36 hours. With Charlie Rock as the main effort, the squadron pushed into Diwaniyah in the face of RPG, mortar, and small-arms attacks, killing upwards of 20 Mahdi militiamen in close combat. For about two more weeks, 1-14 remained in Diwaniyah to stabilize the situation, and then redeployed to Union III to begin operations on Haifa Street. (After Task Force Warhorse was pulled out of Diwaniyah, there was no replacement unit, and this summer the Polish and Iraqi bases outside Diwaniyah have been subjected to the most intense rocket and mortar attacks that they have endured since the Mahdi Army rebellion of 2004.)

A final point about Task Force Warhorse is that, like almost every Army unit in Iraq, it learned while deployed that it would stay in Iraq for 15 months rather than a year. Task Force Warhorse, though, learned this 10 months into its deployment and just two months before it was scheduled to come home. Right now, if not for the three-month extension, the squadron would already be home at Fort Lewis, Washington. Instead, it is still in Baghdad, with a month to go. This leads to an understandable degree of bitterness among the soldiers of the Task Force.

“A true believer”

The man who led 1-14 Cavalry and Task Force Warhorse through the successful counterinsurgency effort in south Doura and the fight in Diwaniyah, who leads them now on Haifa Street, and who trained them to deploy is Lt. Col. Jeffrey Peterson, a bald, tallish officer with an inherent sense for how to lead enlisted soldiers and an intense stare that hints at just how intelligent he is. A 1987 graduate of West Point, he commissioned into the armor branch, he says, because he “loved the idea of working with tanks,” but then branched off into the armor subset of cavalry (doctrinally and organizationally, if not operationally, cavalry units are oriented more toward reconnaissance than straight-up combat like armor and infantry). He later attended MIT’s Sloan School of Business, where he earned his master’s degree, and then returned to West Point to teach economics.

Peterson is also a strong leader of combat soldiers: the troopers and infantrymen of the Task Force have overwhelmingly expressed their admiration for him to me while I’ve been out with them. One infantryman told me that “Peterson’s a jackass” and another that “the colonel’s all right, I guess,” but many more cavalry troopers have said to me, either when asked about the squadron commander or spontaneously in conversation, that “he’s the smartest officer I’ve ever been under” or “I don’t know what we’re doing in this country, but he does.” Even the fiercest critic of the cavalry (and of the war, and of the Army, and of Maliki, and of Petraeus) that I have met, a ferociously angry infantry sniper from Charlie Rock, had this to say about Peterson: “Yeah, he’s cavalry, but he’s a good leader. He fights for us, tries to get us the gear we need, and he’s really smart. He’s a good commander.” (This from a soldier who moments before had condemned the leadership of cavalry officers out of hand.)

What’s truly remarkable about Peterson is his extreme aptitude for counterinsurgency, not something that was trained into the cavalry officers of the 1980s and 1990s (and often, in fact, something that was actively discouraged). Although as a captain he strongly opposed the presence of US troops in places like Haiti and Bosnia – “I used to say that if I was ordered to Bosnia, I’d resign my commission; that’s how strongly I felt that the US Army should not be doing nation building and peacekeeping,” he told me – he is now one of the relatively few battalion and squadron commanders, arguably the most crucial echelon in the current war, with a strong understanding of and belief in the classical counterinsurgency doctrine espoused by Gen. Petraeus and the new Army-Marine field manual on counterinsurgency operations, and is also one of the even smaller number of officers with the tactical flexibility to employ and adjust that doctrine on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis instead of using a less effective blanket approach. The barriers around Mekanik in south Doura were his innovation, and a risky one of which higher command echelons were initially skeptical before adopting, in a more rigid form, in Ghaziliyah and Adhamiyah, to the outrage of the international press.

The barriers are a prime example of Peterson’s flexible tactics: the approach is not described in the new field manual, but does, in some specific cases, fit perfectly with it, and with the classical doctrine on which it is based. He patrols outside the wire every day in order to ensure that community leaders know him, and greets children, cooperative local businessmen, and obviously corrupt Sadrists alike with an impeccably pronounced “Salaam aleikum” – a small thing, but in operations where rapport with the populace is key, a critical one. And perhaps most importantly, he blends this approach with his ability to lead, effectively communicating the non-kinetic tactics required down to the lower ranks of the squadron; in his office and in other rooms in the Task Force headquarters, a series of guidelines titled “Warhorse 6 Commander’s Guidance,” highly visible on the walls, clearly states the squadron’s objectives on Haifa Street and describes in detail the four “key tasks” of control, partnership, civil works, and governance. The bitter sniper from Charlie Rock, who does not accept the usefulness of counterinsurgency, grudgingly told me that “the colonel’s a true believer – you can tell he really thinks this stuff will work, even if it takes ——– forever.” That kind of patience in the face of adversity is exactly what counterinsurgency requires for success.

Peterson did not learn counterinsurgency from the new manual; he was employing it to great effect in south Doura while Petraeus and his associates were still editing the first draft. When I asked him how he developed the approach his squadron uses on Haifa Street and used in Doura, he promptly rattled off a list of books on counterinsurgency – some classics and some more obscure – and on combating organized crime. An officer who is not afraid to be candid (it helps, he says, that “I’m going to West Point for my next assignment and staying there, so I’m not worried about being promoted”) and who has undergone a professional about-face in his attitudes toward non-kinetic warfare, Peterson has a personality and approach that help give his squadron a fighting chance at success in the unbelievably complex task of building and enforcing peace in war-torn Baghdad.

Counterinsurgency on Haifa Street

I’ve been with Task Force Warhorse for a few days now and have patrolled mounted and on foot with Lt. Col. Peterson and his security squad as well as with the infantrymen of Charlie Rock, for a total of five patrols so far (and another, with Crazyhorse Troop, tomorrow); I’ve also spent the night at COP Remagen, the combat outpost that the squadron has established at the northern end of its sector, and sat in on the battle update briefings. That’s not a lot to go on, I know, but from what I’ve seen, this squadron has achieved a nearly mythical goal: it has applied classical, non-kinetic counterinsurgency tactics, been patient, and seen undeniable results. What seven months ago was a festering haven of heavily armed Sunni militants is now effectively secure, to the point that Peterson estimates that “we do not have al Qaeda, Tawhid wal-Jihad, or any other Sunni insurgents in our area, except, at most, the occasional scouting or surveillance elements.” The Mahdi Army does not have armed elements in the area either, although it remains extremely active. The result: since 1-14 began operations on Haifa Street at the end of April, there has not been a single insurgent attack, Sunni or Shia, in the entire area of operations. Although the enemy could always return, and the squadron, like the rest of the Army in Iraq, is at a loss as to how to roll back the pervasive influence of the Mahdi Army on civilian infrastructure, the short-term security piece appears to be completely solid here – a remarkable achievement for Task Force Warhorse.

How did the Task Force reach this point? The fact there have been zero insurgent attacks, as opposed to just a few, “is probably luck,” as the colonel puts it. But at a more basic level, it seems to me that 1-14 Cav’s success here stems from effective and simultaneous prosecution of operations along all four lines that Peterson identifies to his soldiers in his command guidance: control, partnership, civil works, and governance. There has absolutely not been equal success in those four areas, but what Peterson recognizes and – a much more difficult proposition – acts on is that unless all four lines are being pursued at once, regardless of which one seems most important at the time, success in none of them will be sustained.

The first piece of the equation, and the most controversial, is control, which 1-14’s command guidance defines as “preventing the enemy from operating effectively in the area of operations.” Control is the one element of counterinsurgency that the whole Army agrees is critical, but it is also the most misunderstood and misused element; it was, for example, in the name of controlling the area of operations that the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division routinely shelled villages around Baqubah ith 155mm fire back in 2003, and that, as recently as 2006, Col. Mike Steele’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division launched the brutally aggressive sweeps near Bayji that have now led to murder charges and subpoenas. But control was also the name of the game when the celebrated Col. H. R. McMaster carefully cordoned off, advanced through, and set up multiple outposts in the city of Tel Afar with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, one of few urban clearances in Iraq that have actually led to sustained security in the aftermath of combat. Most combat commanders, although not all theoreticians of counterinsurgency recognize that before rebuilding and governance projects can go forward, a basic threshold of security must be met. As Peterson describes it, the challenge and controversy of control operations is “correctly estimating where that threshold lies, and not either shifting focus to the next phase too early or prolonging the kinetic raids and sweeps that make up the control part so long that you cause problems.” The problems he means, of course, are the often severe consequences when US troops use greater force than necessary, as doctrine for conventional combat requires them to: “If we kick in 10 doors and find 10 AKs, but in the process create 50 insurgents, that has not been a productive operation.”

In 1-14’s area of operations, where al Qaeda’s presence is minimal and the Mahdi Army’s is more covert and economic than militant, Peterson’s understanding of this threshold for control operations has led to a very law enforcement-like posture for the squadron; the missions the troopers ride on seem more like something you would see in Bosnia than Iraq. “If I need doors kicked in or an objective stormed, and if there is a strong, imminent threat, my troopers will fight, and Charlie Rock will be at the front, as they were in Diwaniyah,” the colonel says. “That fight was high-intensity, what a Stryker Task Force should do doctrinally, and we fought it. Here, though, that is not what is required, so it is not what we do. Our most recent operation, for example, where we set up a fictitious situation to lure four IA [Iraqi Army] officers who were working for Jaish al-Mahdi, some of the soldiers were saying it seemed more like ‘Ocean’s 13′ than war, and they were right. But that’s what’s needed here.” That operation, and others like it, are how Warhorse brings in the enemy – by tricking and arresting him and when necessary dragging him in, but not by cordoning, shooting, and kicking in doors. “It used to be, the Army way would have been, instead of setting up this situation to bring them in, to cordon the whole block in the middle of the night, have shooters kick in the doors, knock everything around, and cuff the suspects and throw them facedown on the floor. There is no reason to be doing that unless it is absolutely necessary.”

Another key difference between Task Force Warhorse’s approach to control and that of units that have failed in Iraq is that this squadron recognizes that there is more to security operations than bringing in suspects. The command guidance for the Task Force puts equal emphasis on the tasks: “Target enemy cells with unilateral and combined raids,” “Conduct persistent surveillance from random platoon observation points,” and “Establish COP Remagen.” Building a COP, or combat outpost, has become an integral part of the operations of every brigade and most battalions in Iraq under Petraeus’ command, to such an extent that sometimes COPs are built where they are not useful simply because guidance from above says there should be a certain number of COPs. Peterson and his squadron intelligence officer, Capt. Baker, are both of the school of thought that COPs should be built on a more limited basis than they have been for the past seven months. For one thing, they point out, “Force protection at COPs can at times eat up almost half your dismounts, which actually limits rather than facilitates your ability to mount patrols.” The emphasis, Peterson says in another example of flexible application of counterinsurgency doctrine, should be on the patrolling itself rather than on where the patrols are based. The surveillance piece, on the other hand, comes naturally to a cavalry unit but has not been emphasized to the degree that building COPs has – yet understanding what the military calls “human terrain,” or the geographical breakdown of a population by class, ethnicity, religion, politics, and other criteria, is an absolutely essential element of successful counterinsurgency.

This approach is frustrating to many of Warhorse’s soldiers, particularly the attached infantrymen from Charlie Rock: “We’re not like the cavalry,” one infantry radio operator told me while out on patrol in a Sunni area, “we joined up to fight the bad guys and kill the bad guys, and we trained for that, and that’s what we should be doing.” (The fact that Charlie Rock’s parent battalion, 5-20 Infantry, led the assault without them in Baqubah his June does not help the company’s morale.)

Peterson’s response to soldiers with this attitude (and there are many, many of them): “Get over it. I understand their frustration, and sometimes I share it, and they can think whatever they want to think. But they have to be soldiers and do their job – and, no matter what they think, that’s exactly what they do.” That’s a very fair answer, and one that’s extremely relevant to the Army as it goes forward in Iraq: soldiers will probably never like knocking on doors instead of kicking them down and asking suspected terrorists to come with them instead of dragging them in, but just because they hate it doesn’t mean they won’t do it well. Very often, no matter how much they complain, the same soldiers who, like the seething snipers I patrolled with, criticize their mission with every breath also perform that mission impeccably.

The method for gathering “human terrain” data, though, is as frustrating to combat-oriented infantrymen and cavalry troopers as the lack of raids is; spending hours walking the streets or peering through binoculars at the top of high rises, observing and noting everything that happens and everyone who goes by, often seems at the squad level to be worse than useless, and when the stakes are life and death, that’s a very difficult reality. “The job my friend died doing, visiting a playground to see if it was in good condition,” one young sergeant said today at a memorial service for three soldiers from another Stryker unit, “sometimes does not seem worth the sacrifice they made.” Both Gen. Petraeus, the counterinsurgency strategist, and Lt. Col. Peterson, one of the practitioners, were in the audience, and I wondered what thoughts ran through their heads when the soldier made that remark.

The other three elements of the mission that Peterson outlines in his command intent tend to be even more frustrating for soldiers. One, and probably the hardest of all for US soldiers, is partnering with Iraqi Army, Police, and National Police forces. While every soldier at every level knows that the war cannot possibly be won without devoting effort to training the Iraqi Security Forces, the cultural divide, and often the sheer incompetence of Iraqi officers and NCOs, breeds disrespect and even hatred among many American troops. Every time we passed a checkpoint, the soldiers I was walking with would point out to me the miserable discipline of the Iraqis manning it, particularly if it was a police checkpoint – ragged uniforms of mismatched patterns, unlaced boots, slouched posture, and random American military patches. With varying proportions of amusement, disgust, and fury, I’ve heard at least half a dozen times the story of how the Iraqi soldiers at COP Remagen refuse to use the latrines and instead defecate in their living quarters – “and then,” as one officer said, “after they —- all over the barracks we build them and sell the wiring, they have the gall to complain that the US Army isn’t helping them enough.”

That many Iraqi security personnel are risking not just their lives but the lives of their entire families is easy to forget under these circumstances. It isn’t a recipe for trust and patience, but patience is what’s required – there is no other way. Eventually, as senior sergeants tell me wherever I go in this country, “the Iraqis are going to have to get their act together and do it themselves.” Until then, our soldiers are stuck with the important but often miserable job of training them.

The third and fourth elements of Task Force Warhorse’s mission – rebuilding municipal infrastructure and government – are also frustrating for many soldiers who feel like they should be in Baqubah illing the enemy, but others, often cavalry troopers rather than infantrymen, seem to find them rewarding at some level, if tedious. Soldiers in many parts of Iraq – Rashid district, Baqubah Arab Jabour – will probably not stay long enough to see these parts of the mission pay off, but on Haifa Street, 1-14’s efforts have improved civil infrastructure drastically: the main street, at least, is no dirtier than, say, Delhi, clean water is widely available, and newly installed generators ensure that many of the high rises have lights on in some apartments well into the night.

The political side, where the Mahdi Army dominates absolutely everything, has seen much less progress and is not likely to advance as quickly as the civil works side, if at all, but that subject is worth a whole other article. “This hearts and minds bull” is boring for some soldiers and infuriating for others, but the majority of the troopers and many of the infantrymen I spoke to do recognize the necessity of the work – and even if they don’t recognize it, they soldier on and get it done, collecting trash or cleaning soccer fields as ordered even as they understandably groan about the dull, pedestrian nature of the job that so many combat troops now find themselves doing. It is how the Army works, and with a bit of luck and lot of patience, it is how counterinsurgency will work not just on Haifa Street but in many other neighborhoods in Baghdad after they have been cleared.

Only time will tell, but it seems that on Haifa Street, the monotonous, frustrating duties that counterinsurgency operations entail are paying dividends: Task Force Warhorse has not suffered a casualty since it began patrolling the area and, although vast amounts of work remain to be done, the civilian infrastructure and economy are slowly improving. One can only hope that the unit replacing 1-14 Cav, 4-2 Cav out of Germany, proves as patient and adept at the difficult task of building and keeping Baghdad’s peace.

Please support Wes’ embed in Iraq and independent, nonprofit journalism by donating to Public Multimedia Inc. Your contributions are tax-deductible.

You can follow Wes’ embed at his blog, Notes from Downrange. Select reports will be featured at The Fourth Rail.

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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35 Comments

  • DagneyT says:

    Thank you, Bill and company. I volunteer with wounded warriors at the BAMC Fisher House and the BAMC barracks housing warriors whose families cannot be with them. I refer them to your website to put them in touch with what is going on “over there”, in areas their units are not involved in that they cannot learn from their comrades in arms in Iraq. It helps them to learn of the successes, so that they know that their sacrifices are not in vain. God bless you one and all, and may He keep you safe so that you can send your message back to those of us who are trying to support these heroes now at home.

  • Wes says:

    Just to clarify: I hope to write more about this later, but while ISF training lags, services and community building have come along way, and people who fled are now trickling back, both Sunni and Shia.

  • anand says:

    Wes, thanks for your very informative reporting. Four questions:
    1) Did you or the GIs notice some IA company or bn commanders that really stood out as class acts?
    2)Presumably the IA you interacted with are 6th IAD. Has there been improvement in the IA units you and the GIs you talked to have visibility with recently? If there has been progress, could you describe any improvement you did see?
    3) Provided Sadrists practice non-violence, does their popularity and influence really matter to us? Can our GIs work with the Sadrists to accelerate economic and civil affairs development?
    4) Have you noticed any significant non-oil GDP development? Are any local Iraqis focused on non-oil business development? Or are civil affairs, investment, and other projects contingent on the central government appropriating oil revenue for them?

  • Neo says:

    Excellent article. That fills us in on what it takes to control some of the very worst areas of the whole country. It is also clear that most IA units are not ready to take one the very worst areas. There are a few IA units that can take on a great amount of responsibility and many more that can take on lesser areas with varying degrees of success.
    Another weak point I see is transitioning the area to another unit. Task Force War Horse will be going home fairly soon. I don’t know if Wesley Morgan asked much about how the transition will be made. How does this unit pass on it’s knowledge about the area to the next unit to occupy the space. I do hope that the next unit doesn’t have to learn it all over again from the ground up when it moves into the area.

  • Neo says:

    That’s “take on the very worst areas” not “one”

  • BobK says:

    Wes
    Thanks for this excellent article. Haifa street is close to me as my son is in Bagdad and was based right across the river during this years earlier fighting. He was training the IA2-6. I like how you ackowledge the true feelings of the grunt while showing that no matter the personal opinion they get the job done and done well. The young Sgt honoring his fallen buds could have been my son and I definately could hear him saying something similar. What did the general think you ask, probably the very same thing but knowing that is the nature of war. When the soldiers quit bitching is when you have to worry about them.
    To the commenter above that talks about groundhog day I say this. It is easy to predict and expect FAILURE. This is not COUCHED as a success, this is a SUCCESS. Never have these cleaned areas been passive for so long. Why do you not see that as good, Why do you feel it MUST fall back into disarray? The power of the people is great they just need help to let it come out without fear of gangs and criminals(darn I just decribed the east side of youngstown)
    Great job soldiers keep it up and ignore the naysayers and idiots.
    Bill thanks for this great blog, have been visiting it since 2004/5 when my son was in Ramadi. Excellent!

  • David M says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 08/10/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.

  • jim g says:

    Thanks to both Wes Morgan and Bill R for these very informative articles. A couple questions come up. Wes describes at least two instances where pulling out the US forces that had improved security resulted in the areas previously under control going back to the terrorists. Are we (US Command) learning from this and doing more to prevent it from happening again ? If our approach is to rely on the Iraqi Army and/or the Police (especially) to back-fill it seems like we’re going to wind up spending too many resources re-capturing what we once controlled. Also, there is a line in the article about how “…the Army is at a loss to roll back the pervasive influence the Mahdi Army has on civilian infrastructure.” Can someone explain what that means, exactly ? I could speculate but would rather not waste pixels doing so, and if it seems like things keep going in the positive way they have been that could become a huge area of emphasis down the road. God bless you and all our folks serving and keep you safe.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    Neo,
    “Transitioning”
    The 2nd ACR(it was called something different previously) followed the 3-2 to Mosul in it’s previous rotation. I would expect that the commanders of 2nd ACR have been copied in on all the memo’s etc for the best part of a year.
    Wes,
    Great level of detail. Princeton should give you a free pass on writing essays for the next year.

  • Neo says:

    chew2,
    When I ask about transitioning I am not assuming they are starting over from scratch. I asked because I thought it was a question worth discussing and informing ourselves about a bit. Transition periods are a tricky issue though. When the new unit moves in expect the Shiite Militias to take advantage. AQI might probe the area but I expect them to be too busy getting their tails kicked elsewhere to mount a serious challenge this fall. Sectarian hotspots such a Dora and Haifa street are examples of Iraq’s most intractable problems. I would expect US forces to have to sit on them while other problem areas are worked on. We are seeing large security gains in Sunni areas away from the sectarian fault lines. We will just have to see how that changes the political landscape.

  • concerned mrs says:

    great info on the area…
    now we can only hope that 4-2 will follow the same strategy…I am kinda skeptical as I do not think that 4-2 ldrship has the same type of personality or discernment as Peterson,from observance, an entirely diff perspective/mindset and I’ll leave it at that-trying to be respectful, so I wouldn’t be surprised, to see things shaken up, just the sheer fact of the change would lead one to believe or at least in my naivete, that the enemy would be opportunistic……I hope I am wrong, and I hope over zealousness does not take over what is working right now to the expense of our awesome soldiers.
    I also agree that this is short term strategy and eventually INP/IA need to get their act together.

  • nl catter says:

    “Until then, our soldiers are stuck ”
    There will be no ” until then” which means stuck which is not going to happen!
    in that light – such a well written article means squat!

  • Mike E says:

    chew2 said:
    –Why? Because we have pretty much failed to provide enduring security to any community in Iraq.–
    Errr, what about Tall Afar, Ramadi, Falluja, Tikrit, Mosul (the second largest city in the country) and, recently, Baqouba.

  • anand says:

    Mike E.
    Ninevah (Tall Afar, Mosul, 2nd most populous province) has successfully transitioned to PIC, Provincial/local government, Provincial/local IP, with 2nd/3rd IAD providing strategic overwatch.
    Al Anbar (Ramadi, Falluja) will be where Ninevah is today in 6 months . . . but it hasn’t happened yet.
    In Salahadin (Tikrit), Provincial/local government, Provincial/local IP haven’t proven themselves yet. 4th IAD has, but there aren’t enough of them, and they don’t have enough logistics/enablers to do it themselves yet. (4th IAD, which was light infantry is expanding into two mechanized divisions . . . the expansion process in the short run negatively impacts current operations) Transition is 6 months behind Al Anbar.
    Diyala (Baqouba), with 1.2 million (4.5% of) Iraqis is secured by 3 US combat brigades. Things are great now because of our GIs. It is far from clear that either Diyala or Haifa Street are close to being secure in the “retain” (ISF only) phase.
    Chew2 is right that we aren’t close to “enduring security” in most of Baghdad and Diyala province. It is far from clear that this can be achieved with the time and resources General Petraeus has left.
    Moreover, Chew2’s analysis is especially accurate with respect to Al Basrah province . . . which will soon not have a significant MNF presence left.
    Chew2,
    Under “stay the course,”

  • Neo says:

    chew2 said:
    “From what I’ve read, that’s exactly what usually happens. A new unit and commander comes on the scene and wants to do it his way. How many times have you read about xxx was a troubled area, until new commander X came on the scene and started to make all these glorious improvements.”

  • Neo says:

    What Anand said too, I think his assessment is spot on.
    Only thing I would add is that current version of “stay the coarse”

  • Steph says:

    Go Army. Period.

  • TS Alfabet says:

    It would seem that the way forward to longer-term stabilization is already beginning to emerge.
    The Kurds’ example is as likely a model as any for successful transition to Iraqi security. The Kurds established their own security with their peshmerga forces while Saddam was still in power. This native security force allowed the local political body to mature. After the invasion, the Kurdish provinces merely kept on as they had before and they are enjoying a booming economy and no, real security threat (other than a Turkish invasion which is an entirely different can of worms).
    So, too, in the relatively homogenous, Sunni province of Anbar, we are seeing the locals growing their own security forces, like the Kurds. With security established and growing, we are now seeing *local* politics maturing with Sittar and other tribal leaders forming political blocks.
    In the Shiite south, there is every reason to believe that a similar arrangement will emerge. At the moment, no shiite group has established itself, so we can expect to see plenty more bloodshed among the shia in the south until either one group prevails over the others or a point of exhaustion is reached and a political accomodation is established. (There is much that the U.S. could do to influence the outcome in the south short of sending in troops we do not have, but that will require treatment by Bill or one of the other experts). It is nonetheless reasonable to suppose that the south will remain a no-go zone for AQI and violence there will largely be shia vs. shia violence. It will largely come down to a proxy war between Iran’s shiite groups and U.S. supported shiite groups. Again, a separate topic.
    U.S. strategy going forward, then, increasingly need only focus on the mixed areas of Iraq, the so-called Sunni-Shia fault line areas found in Diyala, Salahudin and Baghdad. In the rest of the country, we are seeing a de facto segregation into a Kurdish north, a Sunni West and a Shia South, with the center being a mixed bag. Regardless of whether it is wise to support a de jure segregation of Iraq, the present trending should not be a concern for the U.S. What is happening is essentially a separation of warring parties which will allow for a necessary cooling period. With the confirmation of potentially huge oil deposits in Anbar, all three sectors of Iraq have oil wealth, so each can remain fairly autonomous. While the central government might not like having an autonomous Kurdish North or Sunni West, so long as security is maintained and these areas do not become havens for terrorists, there is not much that the central government can or should do about it. Meanwhile, U.S. forces can increasingly concentrate on building the peace in the mixed areas of Iraq, something that we should be able to do at reduced troop levels. It may be that these mixed areas may segregate themselves so that, for instance, within Baqouba you may have a Sunni side of town policed by Sunnis and a Shiite side of town policed by Shiites, but that is a lesser evil than continued sectarian killings.
    With this localized approach, the central government is largely out of the picture so there is less opportunity for corruption and a return to dictatorship. The central government can deal with foreign policy and other national issues, but otherwise the regions can support themselves. Perhaps Iraq will even become a model of decentralized government, something the U.S. could learn a lesson or two on.

  • Turner says:

    Wes:
    I appreciate the detail in the article. It’s a lot to go through at times, but I come to this website to get the facts and that’s what you gave us. You guys are the “Ernie Pyles” (of WWI) in this conflict that the MSM doesn’t have the soul to give us.
    I was surprised and interested in the story of the Iraqi soldiers defecating in their barracks and selling the wiring out of the building. I don’t know how the US soldiers interpreted it but this doesn’t sound like ignorance, but overt hostility. When Saddam sent his military into Kuwait, that’s how he had them treat the facilities they occupied: They defecated in the halls of the buildings they commandeered for barracks and were required to pirate something from the homes in the area the occupied — an reference to the Islamic principal of “anfal.” Some took something willingly, some took something minor to appease Saddam. My questions are as follows:
    Are there other instances of this Iraqi troops doing this to the facilities we provide for them or is this a minor abberation?
    Is the communication between our troops and Iraqi troops sufficient that our troops would sense the morale or intent of the Iraqis?

  • Wes says:

    Turner:
    The 1-14 troopers mentioned two incidents of defecating in barracks, one in Mosul and one in Saddamiya (first tour, current tour). The communication is such that the soldiers were really, really ticked off and disgusted and still talk about it.

  • TS Alfabet says:

    Chew2,
    Do you consider the Kurdish provinces ruled by warlords? How is that the Kurds’ peshmerga forces are seen as not only legitimate security forces which have absolutely kept the peace in their provinces but are now being detailed to parts of Diyala Province to help finish off AQI there? Has any reporter, government official or NGO complained about the Kurdish forces? Every report I read from writers who visit Kurdish provinces glow about the peace, vibrant economy, etc…
    Admittedly, it is a dicier undertaking in Anbar where the U.S. is essentially partnering with former adversaries. Marine commanders have been walking a fine line there, but there is no question that the Anbar Awakening movement and the resulting tribal re-alingnments have brought a large measure of peace to what was once considered the worst province in Iraq and given up as hopeless one year ago. But there is no fundamental reason why Sunnis should not be able to defend themselves like the Kurds have done without using the term “warlord.”
    The fundamental issue here is establishing enough *local* security to allow some kind of normalcy to return, to allow roads and sewers and infrastructure to be repaired, schools to reopen, life to resume. Nothing I wrote has anything to do with warlords. So far, at least, the Anbaris are joining the IA and police and providing their own security and doing a hell of a job, too. If this isn’t progress, then the word has no meaning in Iraq.
    In an ideal world, Sunnis and Shia kiss and make up and everyone lays down their weapons and the U.S. forces come home tomorrow. Ain’t gonna happen, though. The “transition to security” occurs over time as each group feels secure from attack and trust is built. It may take generations for all we know. Looking at the racial situation in the U.S., we are still taking steps of trust and we are far from home ourselves.
    As for civil war, so long as the U.S. forces remain in Iraq, there will be no civil war, at least not by the definition of “civil war” commonly accepted (my apologies to Michael Yon).
    We have to keep the goal in sight here. We cannot allow Iraq to become an Al Qaeda haven now or in the future. That will mean keeping Anbar, Diyala, Ninewah, Salahudin and Baghdad free of AQI, hopefully in an overwatch capacity that the Marines now have in Anbar. AQI will never make progress in the Shiite areas, although Iran has and will. That is a different struggle, however, one that may require regime change in Tehran to win.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    “As to international Al Qaeda in Iraq, the only reason they are there is to fight Americans. If we leave 90% of the motivation to fight us will leave. That other 5 to 10% of foreign fighters can organize anywhere: Iraq, England, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Somalia. They only need very small cells. Iraq is not that important to them as a base for international terrorism that threatens us.”
    You are buying into the stateside academia propaganda.
    1. The Chaliphate that AQ refers to as trying to reserect had it’s capitol in Baghdad. Iraq is part of what AQ sees as it’s future country.
    2. The oil in Iraq would fund major operations and would provide leverage against weaker countries that are dependent on inported oil.
    3. AQ has always looked at Saudi as a target to gain control of. Iraq would be an excelent base of ops to take over the entire Arabian Peninsula.
    While many assume that AQ is not able to succeed in it’s stated aims and thus will not do this or that; that is all they are doing: ASSUMING.
    Never let your mind-set be the basis of predicting enemy actions. What you think is plausable may not be what they think is plausable. The term for allowing that mis-perception catch you off-guard is Strategic Surprise and it has happened many times in history.
    And never disregard stated plans. Just because they sound like fantacy to you, does not mean that they agree with your estimate of their intentions. Your statements sound like what is called “projection”. You know what you would do in their place and assume that is the real plan. The problem is that you come from a very different outlook and background.
    First thing you learn in HUMINT is to forget your country’s attitudes and beliefs. US is the most radicaly individualistic society in the world. Many look at US as crazy in the rest of the world. To understand them and the world they come from requires a serious change in perceptions

  • TS Alfabet says:

    “Iraq cannot develop as a peaceful polity until they free themselves from U.S. influence. So long as we attempt to control things to further our own national interest we will generate opposition and friction. So to try to make the Anbar tribes into our allies just won’t work for peaceful reconciliation. We are just too foreign.”
    Chew2, I respectfully disagree. The Anbar tribes are *already* our allies, if only because they have little choice with AQI and the Mahdis at their throats. There simply does not seem to be any basis for your statement that Iraq can’t develop peacefully without U.S. influence. With U.S. influence, the Kurdish north is peaceful now. With U.S. influence, Anbar is much more peaceful. In fact, every reporter on the ground in Iraq from Michael Yon to John Burns to Michael Totten agree on at least one thing: the premature withdrawal of U.S. forces would result in a bloodbath of unequaled proportions. Contrary to the media/Dem spin on this, the U.S. is not the source of violence in Iraq but the source of stability, the one party that is keeping the lid on wider violence. From what Mike Yon has written, there is a growing perception across Iraq among Iraqis that perhaps the Americans are not there to steal the oil afterall, but have the muscle to prevent further sectarian and ethnic strife. The central government, on the other hand, is not ready to govern because they don’t have the power or consensus to govern yet. That will come in time, but right now everything is local in Iraq. Let Maliki and the others have their jabber sessions, but right now, securing the local politics is key.
    The real problem in Iraq now is the increasing efforts by Iran to foment a kind of Hamas in Iraq with better weapons and training for radical shiite groups. The SIIC and Sistani are going to have to make a choice to either join with the Iranian thugs or side with the U.S. There is no third way in Iraq until Iran is removed from the scene.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Chew,
    As DJ stated, you really should listen to what AQ central is saying about Iraq. Bin LAden and Zawahiri have called Iraq the central front in the war, they’ve created the ISI as the nucleus of their caliphate (they’ve openly admitted Afghanistan is the backwaters of the Muslim world), and hve committed significant resources to the fight. AQ has created a map with their caliphate with Iraq at the heart.
    Don’t project your thoughts on the situation, read and study what al Qaeda’s plans and strategies are.

  • anand says:

    DJ wrote: “First thing you learn in HUMINT is to forget your country’s attitudes and beliefs. US is the most radicaly individualistic society in the world. Many look at US as crazy in the rest of the world. To understand them and the world they come from requires a serious change in perceptions.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. Great comments DJ and Bill.
    TS Alfabet is right that GIs are not the main problem in Iraq. But Chew2 is right that many conflicts can only be “strategically and sustainably” solved by Iraqis. At best we can provide a band aid and facilitate opportunities for Iraqis . . . they have to take advantage of them (SIIC, Dawa and JAM have to take advantage of the opening in Al Anbar for example.)
    Chew2, I don’t know “What percent of the Sunni insurgency is controlled or directed by AQI?”

  • Ammo Guy says:

    All right, I’ll bite – please supply the location of this “better battle ground.” A sparsely populated, open desert, sitting on the world’s largest pool of oil with a fiercely motivated warrior militia already in place that welcomed our arrival, nearby air bases from which to sortie, and well within the range of naval aviation – I can’t think of a better place, but perhaps you can. Sheesh, everybody’s a genius when they don’t have to make the decisions.

  • anand says:

    chew2, you are right that most Iraqis strongly dislike Al Qaeda (for reasons that have little to do with us) and that they cannot seize control of Iraq outright. The danger is that Iraq devolves into a civil war or broader regional war, and that in the confusion and instability Al Qaeda develops sanctuaries in Sunni Arab areas from which they can operate (against Iraqis and non-Iraqis alike).
    Is the threat exaggerated? I don’t know. Maybe others smarter than me can answer. The greatest threat IMHO comes from well educated, well mannered and career successful Pakistani Jihadis (they scare the Bejeezus out of most Pakistanis.)
    Regarding the IA, look at:
    //billroggio.com/archives/2007/08/iraqi_security_force_3.php#comments
    There are many here (Bill, DJ, CJR who maintain the ISF OOB of course, but many, many others too) who know far more than me regarding the IA.
    Your question is a good one, and legitimate. Can some of the posters here take a stab at this?

  • Bill Roggio says:

    chew,
    I won’t respond to the “we shouldn’t have invaded Iraq” arguments and such as it is water under the bridge, and no new ground will be broken by pursuing the this line of discussion.I ask you not to continue this as the debate eventually turns political and we have no need for that here. That discussion is fruitless, and the fact is we are there now and the question is what is the best course for both Iraq and the US/West.
    Yes, AQI’s manpower is largely Iraqi. But AQ’s leadership is overwhelmingly foreign. The Islamic State in Iraq is treated separately than al Qaeda in Iraq in the report which discusses the number of attacks by insurgent groups, as well as who makes up the Iraqi insurgency. Hence the big difference. I’m told the ISI accounts for about 47% of the attacks. Add it to AQI’s 15% and then it starts making a difference. The ISI was created by AQI.
    You can call the ISI “Sunni insurgents” all you like but the fact is they buy into AQI’s ideology and fight under their direction.
    And, btw, one big reason for not classifying the ISI as AQi is that it gives us wiggle room to fracture the group…
    Other Sunni insurgent groups, like the 1920s and Mujahideen Army are turning on AQI/ISI. Hence the drop in attacks in Anbar, success in Baqubah, Salahadin, etc.

  • TS Alfabet says:

    Nice theories, Chew.
    A few difficult facts, though:
    1. Petraeus said that although AQI accounted for a small percentage of the overall numbers of insurgents, they were, nonetheless, responsible for between 80-90% of the violence in Iraq, so going after AQI was a good strategy, as we have seen from the significant decline in violence there over the last month or two.
    2. Current operations are clearly not “whack-a-mole” as you suggest. Contrary to prior ops, since February 07, U.S. forces have been clearing areas and then *staying* to hold them against re-infiltration. More importantly, with the added “surge” troops, the U.S. has been able to pursue AQI to the few, remaining safe zones available. As Bill’s most recent report on Operation Phantom Strike suggests, the U.S. is aggressively moving to mop up AQI while, at the same time, ramping up operations against the now-looming threat, Iranian-sponsored shia terror groups.
    3. Hanlon and Pollack can hardly be written off as right-wing tools. They have been extremely critical of U.S. strategy in the past and belong to a well-known, left-leaning think tank. There is zero chance that the NY Times is going to give front page space to right wing hacks. It seems that you simply don’t want to accept their analysis, even when it seems to sync up with what many people who have been on the ground in Iraq for months and years are saying, too.
    4. A bit off topic, but there many good reasons to take out Saddam, WMD being just one. Victory in Iraq will be a huge blow to AQI and islamofascists worldwide, hence their furious investment of resources there. Ultimately, if you can’t see the war against radical islam as a worldwide, epochal struggle, then, yes, I suppose your view makes some sense (i.e, to sum up your apparent view, we should just build up the homeland defenses and try to strike at militant groups when it’s opportune and when it would not require any significant sacrifice or long-term commitment). My guess is that you did not oppose Clinton’s unauthorized foray into the Balkans, where we *still* have troops today. Where is the critical U.S. interest there? But, in truth, we *are* in a global struggle and radical islam is bent on domination like the fascist ideology from which it openly draws its strength ( any wonder why “Mein Kampf” is the no. 1 best-seller in the Arab world?). There was never any real choice about allowing Iraq to continue under Saddam post-9/11 just like there is no real choice about Iran.
    5. Afghanistan was never of any real importance to Al Qaeda once their bases there were obliterated. We seem to have turned the tide against AQI. Next up is the Iranian threat and possible fall of Musharraf in Pakistan.

  • Ammo Guy says:

    My apologies to Bill for wandering off topic, but hindsight drives me crazy – I can’t believe DJ didn’t nuke my comment…yet. Meanwhile, if a poster is blogging from some far-flung FOB in the sandbox (and his name is not Beauchamp), my apologies as well for criticizing your POV. Otherwise, I would suggest reading Michael Yon’s latest post to put some meat on the bones presented by Messrs. O’Hanlon and Pollack – guys like Yon and Wes Morgan are not being “scripted by the U.S. Army.”

  • Stryker Mom says:

    My son along with many other Brave men are in the group that is written about in the article above.
    They are doing an unbelievable job and I pray they come home safe very soon.
    Styker Mom

  • anand says:

    Stryker Mom, thanks for your son’s sacrifice and service.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    The date is from two confidential sources that have 100% highly reliable in the past. The attacks are against all elements – US, ISF and civilian. This is military data, and is far more comprehensive than just the press releases.
    There is a lot to you post and I may not get to it due to time considerations.
    Ansar al Sunnah is part of the ISI, that has been public knowledge for some time. Some elements of the IAI have signed onto the ISI as well (this is the fracturing of the Sunni insurgency). I’ve documented this but you’ll have to find this.
    Large element of the Mujahideen Army and the 1920s have signed on with the Anbar Salvation Council or other regional groups, or ar eworking directly with US or Iraqi security forces (see Baqubah). Again, I’ve documented this, you will have to do your homework.
    The RFL/RE report is based on media press releases, so it only paints a partial picture.
    Just look at Anbar province. How do you think this went from one of the worst to one of the best provinces security wise? AQI, which lead the insurgency in the province, was defeated after Sunni insurgent groups like the 1920s threw in their lot with the US/ISF.
    As far as what al Qaeda brings to the table in leadership and experience, I can only say you are dead wrong, and military and intel specialists would greatly disagree with your statements.

  • anand says:

    Bill,
    Thanks for the additional information and comprehensive answers regarding AQI’s role with respect to violence in Iraq. I would add that Maj Gen Lynch mentioned that 70% of all attacks (on ISF, MNF and civilians) in his AO (An Najaf, Karbala, Babil and Wasit) are AQI in his most recent appearance on C-Span a few weeks ago. It is easy to look up with a search on C-Span’s website. I was surprised that AQI represented such a large percentage of attacks in the upper South. I would have thought that Shia extremists, many with Iranian backing, represent a larger share of attacks than they do. Intra-Shia conflict isn’t yet as large a share of the violence in the South as I suspect it will soon become.
    Chew2, how much confidence do you have in claims by militias (which have been compiled by RFE/RL)? Some of these militias are braggarts who exaggerate. Thanks for the link though.
    Your question on the quality of the IA is perhaps the second most important question you asked. I would love to hear everyone else’s view on that.
    Perhaps pages 4-6 below might provide relevant information (Tal Afar is mentioned):
    //www3.brookings.edu/fp/research/2007august_iraqreport.pdf
    It is interesting that Pollack and O’Hanlon regard 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 8th IAD as especially capable of managing their AO with little American help. I would have thought that they would mention 1st and 4th IAD.
    4th is in the process of splitting expanding from 1 light infantry into two mechanized divisions-which might be impeding its short run operational capabilities. But 4th IAD does an amazing job of independently managing At Tamin even now. Moreover, 1-4 IA brigade in Salahadin is doing a good job by all accounts. However 4-4 IA brigade is still pretty green and the two SI Brigades in Salahadin aren’t doing so good. Maybe this is why they didn’t mention 4th IAD.
    1st IAD is doing a good and nearly independent job of managing all of Eastern Al Anbar minus Karma-which the Marines are on top of. In fact the two authors mention that Al Anbar might drop to one or two US combat brigades next year.
    Is it possible that they didn’t mention these two divisions simply because they didn’t talk to enough soldiers from these two divisions?
    I was also surprised they mentioned 6th IAD as capable of controlling its battle space with minimal help. Some parts of 6th IAD are class acts, including 1-6 IA. But as Wes’ report indicates, part of 6th IAD has had difficulty controlling sectarian fault line communities.
    Chew2, although you didn’t ask about the IP and INP, here are Pollack and O’Hanlon’s findings:
    1. Dr. Bassima al-Jaidri and her Office of the Commander-in-Chief (OCinC) remain out of control.
    a. OCinC is messing up local IP and trying to take over Iraq Provincial Volunteers (IPV) from MNF
    2. QL II seems to have had limited success in combating sectarianism in the INP
    They also find limited progress against Shia extremists, especially in the South.
    I hope this helps. And again, I would ask others far more knowledgeable than I to comment on the Chew2’s concerns regarding the IA.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I just looked at the chart at Abu Aardvark for the RFL/RL report. Many of those groups listed ARE part of the ISI, such as Jaish al-Fatiheen, Jaish al-Rashidin, Ansar al Sunnah, etc. They just released through their own websites, not through the ISI. This would be like the USMC releasing a press release through its own website and it not getting picked up by DoD.
    You can doubt the military all you like. They capture insurgents, interrogate them and build a picture of the insurgency.
    And since you’ve chosen to ignore my response, you won’t hear back from me. You seem to ignore data that doesn’t fit your worldview, or write it off as military disinformation. It seems Abu Aardvark is a much better place for you to have your perceptions on al Qaeda’s role in the insurgency reinforced.

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis