Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Iraq State of the Insurgency Part III:

Round 5 out of 10 Rounds

As noted in the other two parts of this series, State of the Insurgency and State of the insurgency Part II, the insurgency is in a state of disarray. I'm not going to claim this is the end or the turning point. To me, it's to early to tell what will happen. It is, by no means, the final round, but the scoring for this round has it 96 Coalition and Iraqi Forces to 75 for insurgent in this round.

We've swept through Qaim and several other border towns, seriously wounding Zarqawi. We've pushed through Haditha and the new Operation Lightening to cordon off Baghdad is underway.

According to the latest and an email from a Marine officer to Blackfive, as I expected, they are rolling up a number of bad guys based on info they collected from the Qaim operation.

AP is reporting:

The battle killed two Syrians, an Algerian and a Jordanian and wounded two Saudis and a Moroccan, a U.S. military spokesman, Maj. Wes Hayes, said.

If you didn't hear it before, info says that the Iraqi citizens were kicking bad guys' butts before we even got there because they had tried to take over the town and insulted the local sheikh. Apparently, the "insurgents" have forgotten the basics of tribal courtesies and out stayed their welcome. Our guys actually stood back for a few hours, watching the fight and getting a feel for who was who on the battle field. Other info indicated that the villagers requested our presence in assisting them.

Pretty good PR when a largely Sunni town wants our guys to come in and kick other Sunni/jihadist/foreigner butt.

Today's news points exactly to expectations at this time as the insurgents bicker amongst themselves about who is in charge, whether Zarqawi can still lead them or if the news of his injuries and the back and forth about command have made the lower ranks nervous and untrusting about orders they receive. This will also slow down the recruiting for a few days (maybe even weeks) as the pipelines for trafficking wannabe jihadists are twisted and stomped by rumor and military.

Zarqawi's recent report to Bin Laden that he is fine and recovered is probably not exactly true. He may not be dead, but it is highly unlikely he is up to his old tricks with shrapnel in the chest even if this did occur in late February. He's still weak and could still be subject to an infection with the multitude of nasty germs running around Iraq. Our own soldiers have had to fight off these infections even with the best of treatment. It doesn't respond well to antibiotics. Zarqawi, if he's lucky, might get regular antibiotics and he might not. Sadly, there is more medicine available on the Iraq blackmarket than at the hospitals.

Zarqawi's message, as we all should have figured by now, was not for Bin Laden, not even for us. This was a message to his people to pick up morale and, mainly, to try to stave off the infighting and the collapse of some of his cells that aren't as strong and committed as his core group(s).

My predictions were for drive by shootings and one or two car bombs if they can get them off. The shootings could be "sectarian" or "insurgent". Suiciders, if you remember, are most likely jihadists.

The AP news gives us the run down for today's tallies:

The U.S. military said a Marine was killed Monday in a firefight near the restive city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad.

Read Blackfive. This is where we are operating with ISF (Iraqi Security Forces), training and supporting them. If you look over casualty counts for US military, while May was higher than the previous month or the highest this year, you can tell when we are going out to get the bad guys. We have higher casualties. That is just a fact. What I think is missing from most news analysis on the subject (if there is any), is that, even with all of these ops going on at once, our casualties compared to ops in November and last April and a few in between, are comparitively smaller. This means we're meeting less resistance in large formations and, additionally, we have learned from those other ops what works and what doesn't. MOUT training is improving as we speak and the main force is well prepared.

It doesn't mean we won't have more casualties or that this is over. This is the long haul. Insurgencies only overcome through hearts and minds, not tactics and weapons. Continuing ops against civilians by "insurgents" and the advancing political situation continues to whittle away any support.

Other news:

_Gunmen killed three Iraqi soldiers and wounded four in a drive-by shooting in western Baghdad's Ghazaliyah neighborhood, Yarmouk hospital reported.

This one requires more info. Ghazaliyah is largely Sunni if I'm not mistaken. Plenty of soldiers in the ISF are Shia. This could be "sectarian" instead of "insurgent", but "insurgent" can't be ruled out since this is also the area where some Saddam hold outs live (particularly Palestinian transplants).

_A suicide car bomber killed two Iraqi soldiers in an early morning attack on an army checkpoint near Buhriz northeast of Baghdad.

"Insurgent/Terrorist/Jihadi". Still, it didn't do much and it was only one. Small op to keep the news focused. Not well planned and probably not done by a jihadi who was real excited about killing himself. In the last few weeks, the Iraqi soldiers are getting as good as the American's at threat assessment and shooting the crap out of the cars before they can actually hit the intended target. Still, the drivers have a tendency to push the button as they're dying which leads to some casualties, but not the 10 or 20 they would hope for running into a check point.

_Gunmen killed Jerges Mohammed Sultan, an Iraqi journalist working for state-run Al-Iraqiya, in the northern city of Mosul.

Insurgents/possibly even Ba'athi Saddamists. It's the truth that journalists are being targeted in Iraq, but it is usually the insurgents since their propaganda war requires that they take out anyone that might be impacting their own ability to conduct PR. Al Iraqiya is the station that plays "Iraq's Most Wanted Confess" and the insurgents keep trying to intimidate them.

_Residents of Hit, 85 miles west of Baghdad, found the bullet-riddled bodies of four former Iraqi soldiers who were kidnapped last week.

I found the word "former" Iraqi soldiers interesting. Makes me think "former" is "Saddam's Army". Which means they were most likely Sunni, most likely taken out for revenge and most likely taken out by Shia.

As predicted, insurgent op tempo has been greatly slowed down. I expect this to continue for another 10-14 days as insurgents re-establish communications, leadership and they fall back to other supply areas. If you read Zawahiri's "Knights Under the Prophet's Banner", he documents some of the history of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt along with some of their operational standards. One of which is to have between two and four fall back positions at all times. Once they have to dump one or two, as soon as they settle in the next one, they re-gear, re-establish communications and establish or insure full operational ability of the next two or so fall back positions before doing the next ops. This is basic insurgent tactics. Without it, they wouldn't have lasted long after Fallujah, much less Mosul.

Not to say that there aren't more than two or four "fall back" positions already. Might be 10 with only a few fully stocked (ammo, food, money and men). One thing is certain, having that many positions available at all times means that, even if some fall to our military, they still have others to run to. But, a plus for us, not many people can know where all the sites are or it's for certain we'd know, too. Info has a way of getting out. So, if main fall back positions are compromised, that's all the better for us considering it will take them longer to get back up to full operational ability in their new area.

As always, intel is the key. The faster we know where the insurgents set down, the faster we route them and the less time they have to establish fall back positions and the less secure they can feel to plan and conduct operations. It is also more likely that more medium and large fish get caught in the net.

Right now, intel is better, but no where near "knock out" stage. We're still in Round 5 delivering body blows and a few upper cuts to the jaw line. The enemy is staggering, but not down for the count.

If patterns hold true, between 15th and 21st day, we should see a large or semi-large attack of car bombings so that Zarqawi can prove he's stil in charge. That would around Friday June 10 or forward. When I say "large", I mean five or more coordinated attacks or an all out assault on an Iraqi or American base. One thing I've been thinking is that, the few times that they have led full scale attacks, they've had their butts handed to them. They have not been able to over run an American position and their ability to over run Iraqi positions has gone way down. That in itself makes it a very wasteful tactic on their part. On the enemy's cost to benefit analysis, they continue to see this as an opportunity, not to win, but to inflict damage, cause casualties and erode support back home. I think that we have an advantage for awhile longer. Support at home continues to wax and wayne, but large scale calls to bring the troops home before we are finished are not making the news anymore. The American people are getting used to the op tempo and can see now the progress. Not because the news is reporting any "real" progress, but because the reporting of the bad stuff has gone down to a paragraph or bullet points.

It's what's not being said, instead of what is.

With operation lightening setting up check points, the enemy will move as quickly as possible to take advantage of so many targets. That will also be a plus for us. That means bad planning and a rush to develop explosives and recruit jihadists who might not be as dedicated to blowing themselves up. That usually means they do stupid things like start driving at their targets very fast from too far back and swerving through traffic. This gives the check point operators time to target and belay the attacking vehicle and makes them less effective.

All in all, I won't count my chicken's before they hatch, but the next 10 days out to be comparitively quiet.

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