Thursday, January 10, 2008

Operation Phantom Enemy:

AP reports:

"ZAMBARANIYAH, Iraq - U.S. bombers and jet fighters unleashed 40,000 pounds of explosives on the southern outskirts of Baghdad within 10 minutes Thursday in one of the biggest airstrikes of the war, flattening what the military called safe havens for al-Qaida in Iraq
. . . Maj. Alayne Conway, a spokeswoman for troops in the Multi-National Division-Center, which controls the broad swath of territory south of Baghdad, said the amount of ordnance dropped in 10 minutes nearly exceeded what had been dropped in that region in any month since the U.S. military surge began in earnest in June 2007. . . The attack came a day after the U.S. military reported that nine American soldiers were killed north of the capital in the first two days of a new offensive."

For all of this ordinance dropped what did the US tax payer get?

"[The] attack that led to 12 arrests and the discovery of two houses used to torture kidnap victims, according to an Iraqi army officer. He said the troops faced no resistance."

Of course, there was no resisitance, no one was there. Except for the poor bastards who may or may not have been unlucky enough to have been under our B-1s and F-16's. Oddly, there's no mention of any "collateral damage" at all in this story. That's a lot of ordinance not to have killed anyone.

This operation was part of a larger overall operation to go after al-Qaeda all over Iraq, focusing mainly in Diyala province, specifically the capital Baquba, which is where I thought we had routed AQI back in June.

Anyone remember Operation Arrowhead Ripper? Back then we swooped into Baquba and after shaking and baking half the city, victory was declared.

The NYT reported on June 18:

"Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim al-Rubaie, the Iraqi commander of operation in Diyala, said the coalition and Iraqi forces had made significant advances during the recent large-scale operation to clear al-Qaeda from Baqubah. 'Life has gradually started to go back to normality in these areas, and residents are happy with the military operations."

Yes clearly, that's why we're back again. The problem is, despite Gen. Odierno's boast that "We are beyond a surge of forces, and we are now into a surge of operations," AQI skipped out of Baquba days before we even got there.

Odierno said: "I think that they knew an operation was coming in Baquba. They watched the news. They understood we had a surge." [See, it's the media's fault] Odierno predicted 80% of AQI escaped before the battle even bagan: "They always do this,” Lt Odierno said. “They don't stay and fight.” []

Some things never change:

Just as AQI militants moved from Anbar to Diyala in June, now they're moving ahead of our attacks up to Salahuddin from Diyala. Again they seem to always know where we'll be. Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling said yesterday: "Operational security in Iraq is a problem. I'm sure there is active leaking of communication."

From whom I wonder? Our good buddies the Awakening Councils perhaps?

Pax Patraeus and Iraqi Solutions:

You know, it seemed like when W. was telling the insurgents to "bring 'em on," all insurgents were considered "terrorists." There was no distinction between AQI and any of the other groups. Now since the advent of Pax Patraeus, we're willing to pick and choose who is and is not a terrorist.

Who exaclty is winning here? Thomas Ricks and Karen deYoung have an interesting article today which kind of points out that Gen. Patraeus and Ryan Crocker are pretty much willing to do business with anyone who will get us out of this mess.

The new emphasis on "Iraqi solutions" is basically us throwing in the towel.

They write:

"For some observers, the approach indicates a new realism in Washington, a recognition that long years of grandiose plans drawn from U.S. templates have not worked in Iraq. But others charge that the phrase 'Iraqi solutions' implies a cynical U.S. willingness to turn a blind eye to sectarianism, political violence and a wealth of papered-over problems -- if that is the price of getting the United States out of Iraq."

Hell, not only are we willng to talk to the guys who were planting all the those IEDs a year ago but Patraeus says he'll even talk to the Mahdi Army!

"'Politically, realistically, representatives of . . . Sadr are important,' said Paul Folmsbee, a Foreign Service officer who heads the U.S. civilian-military reconstruction team in Baghdad's Sadr City. 'There's an office called the Office of the Moqtada al-Sadr, and they also provide many services to the population, and so we work with them.' That includes working with Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, elements of which are fighting U.S. forces elsewhere, Folmsbee told reporters last month."

Patraeus told NEWSWEEK this week:

"If we could sit down across the table with insurgents who were shooting at us—like we did in the late spring and summer, [with] Sunni Arab insurgents—we figured we could at least give Jaish al-Mahdi a chance. Now, having said that, once an element or an individual violates that ceasefire, obviously they're criminals and they have to be dealt with by Iraqi or Coalition forces, or together, more likely."

Keep in the mind this is the same Jaish al-Mahdi who are finding their own "Iraqi solution" in Basra by killing women.

The BBC:

"Many residents told the BBC that militias have tightened their grip in Basra since the last British troops pulled out of the city in September, after months of relentless attacks.
They accuse Shia militias, including the Mehdi army of Moqtada Sadr, of a campaign of intimidation and violence, particularly against women. Mafia-style turf battles bring further bloodshed, partly competing for a slice of the oil revenues flowing through the city. More than 40 women have been killed in the past few months, according to Basra's police chief - most shot dead by unidentified gunmen. Extremists linked with militias are widely blamed."

We're not caring so much about that these days, though.

What the Surge is all about: We're not playing their game anymore -- or are we?

Dave Kilcullen wrote back in June on the "surge of operations" in Baquba:

"For professional counterinsurgency operators such as our SWJ community, the thing to understand at this point is the intention and concept behind current ops in Iraq: if you grasp this, you can tell for yourself how the operations are going."

Thanks Dave, try to explain it slowly, after all, I'm not in the SWJ communty.

Kilcullen writes of the insurgent, or AlQaeda type or whoever it is this week we're fighting:

"We can drive him off from the population, then introduce local security forces, population control, and economic and political development, and thereby 'hard-wire' the enemy out of the environment, preventing his return [that sure worked in Baquba!]. But chasing enemy cells around the countryside is not only a waste of time, it is precisely the sort of action he wants to provoke us into [my italics]. That’s why AQ cells leaving an area are not the main game—they are a distraction. We played the enemy’s game for too long: not any more. Now it is time for him to play our game." [SWJ]

So why are we chasing AQI all over the place again? Not being in the SWJ community, obviously, I need things explained to me, I'm kind of confused because General Odierno explained that the objective of Operation Phanom Phoenix was:

"Working closely with the Iraqi Security Forces, we will continue to pursue al-Qaida and other extremists wherever they attempt to take sanctuary. Iraqi citizens continue to reject extremist elements. We are determined not to allow these brutal elements to have respite anywhere in Iraq." [UPI]

Isn't that playing "his" game?

Kilcullen writes:

"The enemy is fluid, but the population is fixed. (The enemy is fluid because he has no permanent installations he needs to defend, and can always run away to fight another day. But the population is fixed, because people are tied to their homes, businesses, farms, tribal areas, relatives etc). Therefore—and this is the major change in our strategy this year—protecting and controlling the population is do-able, but destroying the enemy is not.."

Hence the fourty thousand tons of ordinance on top of Zambaraniyah?

Sounds like the enemy isn't the only thing that's fluid.


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