Monday, June 20, 2005

Now We Return To Our Regularly Scheduled Reasonable Posting

Iraq: Converging War and Tactics

The war is multi-facetted in Iraq. Like the Global War on Terror, of which this is a front, there are many actors participating at multiple levels. In Iraq, we see a microcosm of the larger war. There are multiple actors, support, operations and logistics. Some are actively opposing the US while others are simply middlemen taking advantage of the unique opportunity to gain wealth either as an individual or for their tribe.

As I explained in a previous post, the four main groupings appear as the following:

  • Hard Core Jihadists: trained in other terror camps, experienced in fields of insurgency from either Pakistan, Afghanistan, Palestine, Sudan, Tunisia, etc. Core leadership, planning and logistics. Not often found on the actual battlefield or more likely to lead from the rear in order to maintain their viability to lead or plan future operations.

    • Subset Cannon Fodder Jihadists: no real training, recruited green from mosques or other political fronts. These are largely used to do suicide bombings or suicidal stands/attacks against American or Iraqi forces. In essence, cheap labor.


  • Ba'athist/Anti-New Iraq Government Insurgents: part of the old regime or preference of old regime over any outside forces. This has leadership, suppprt and logistics in and out of Iraq.

  • Sectarian/Tribal Groups: largely responsible for fighting amongst the different tribes or religious groupings. Has support and logistics outside of Iraq though main leadership is local.

  • Criminal Rings: These are either an amalgem of many groups or tribal activity with entire tribes participating in one manner or the other. These supply materials, smuggle people, money, information, etc over known smuggle routes. these largely participate based on the money factor and make money from all three of the above noted groups with the largest monetary gain from the Jihadists and Ba'athists. Have no real loyalty or ideological support of any of the first two, though may have more loyalty to tribal groups considering their interactive capabilities.

      Subset Petty Criminals: small rings, not as well organized or led, take many different small jobs to create funds but less likely to obtain large funds from large operations. Interestingly, the jihadist and insurgent groups may have caused a bit of a conundrum for their future and continued use of these groups with overpaying for individual activities and now there is a desire to pay less as the funds must be budgeted and spent wisely. I believe that the over payment issue is apparent because the kidnappings of people have not resulted in more westerners being held by groups like Al-sunnah or their like. Most of the kidnapped victims these days are locals who are ransomed back on the local level or killed if ransom is not paid, in straight up criminal activity. Westerners are held for ransom instead of beheaded after demands of leaving Iraq. The kidnappers are more open to negotiation. While many of them use the jihadist phrases with demands for the outside forces to leave Iraq, it is more and more apparent that these statements are used as a knock off of the originals to create fear and press the advantage for ransom.

      If the funds were more available and considered beneficial, people like Douglas Wood would not have been held for months for long term negotiation, but would have been quickly exploited and then executed to show they mean "business".


I point out these different groups again because it means that we should be fighting these groups with assetts that are best suited for these separate yet converging aspects of the war. The military is doing its best, but I believe that the very nature of the military at large, to conduct war, is not always suited for or geared towards the types of activities that need to take place.

As we speak, the military is busily transforming itself into the necessary structures, behind the eight ball, using units that have not been responsible for or received training for all the activities that need to take place. They are often, quite frankly, flying by the seat of their pants. The best thing that can be said is that the youngmen on the ground are adaptable and more capable of accepting their changing roles than the officers above them. They are the first to recognize the need for training, tools and resources, but, those above them may continue to focus on a linear mission, mainly planning and fighting battles.

One thing that I could tell from several military blog postings is that the individual units have "budgets" and they must equip their men from this budget. Other funds could be obtained, but just like a business, requesting additional funds requires reams of paperwork and justification with the hope that a senior officer above will look at it seriously. In the mean time, new units that cycle in and have not had previous experience in Iraq get some information and assistance from returning units, but it still relies on the officers to take this information and develop the types of supplies and training the they need. When they get to Iraq they find the reality to be completely different. By then they've used a large part of their unit funds and must begin immediately developing requests and justifications. They are re-training their men on the ground on the fly, turning artillery and logistics men into investigators, police and civil affairs officers.

I was thinking back to last year when I read Thomas P Barnett's, "The Pentagon's New Map" and his thoughts on the need to change the military into to separate organizations: civil affairs and war fighting, to put it simply. The main thesis of the book indicated that this would be on a large scale basis, separating the branches of the military into these organizations.

After reading the reality on the ground from many bloggers, I would say that his original concept is right, but may have been too grand and unweildy to be immediately effective. Overhauling the entire military on these grounds can take years.

Well, in Iraq, we don't have years. So, reading the bloggers, it occurs to me that, instead of trying to change the entire military at once, it would behoove the military to change individual units, brigades or divisions into this separate, but intertwined activities.

Right now, this is actually occuring on the ground in Iraq, but the training and philosophy is not being done here in the US. At least, from what I can read and surmise. Certainly, we have civil affairs units that are involved in building civil society, but it is equally obvious that we do not have enough of these units and, when combat units get on the ground there, they are finding themselves being transformed or assigned by necessity to operations that they were not trained on or set up to perform.

Units are given responsibility for areas and, in those areas, they are responsible for being civil affairs, police, investigators, politicians, engineers, business managers and combat troops. This is at the unit or company level. And, we are not talking about entire units being civil affairs or an entire unit being engineers. I mean, literally, that one unit must contain or be able to perform all of these functions inter-unit.

I do not believe that the military units are created or trained in this fashion. Artillery units are trained to fire artillery. Combat units are trained to fight, tank units, MP units. No single unit comprises the whole.

Major K of Strength and Honor puts this in his "about" section:

I am, at this writing, a 34 year old Infantry Officer assigned as an S2(Intelligence Officer) for an Air Assault Infantry Battalion. We are here conducting full-spectrum operations in the Sunni Triangle of Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom


He talks about building his intelligence operations from the ground up with little previous training:


Needing support or materials not provided or deemed necessary but useful in prosecuting the different types of war here:

I have received dozens of e-mails offering help for my informants and the men of the Battalion with some of these gear issues. The Army sometimes has tendency to either move too slow, or decides in its infinite wisdom that we don't have a need for certain things. [snip]

Handcuffs are what we need in the greatest numbers. They just make life a lot easier and cut down on hassles and cuts. This is a good link to some reasonably priced ones.

- MP3 Recorders, I have had a few offers, but could use a few more. Please don't overdo it...

- As for the Body Armor, I am stunned by the generosity of JJ, who already has one set on the way, and Mr. M. who has offered to match any contributions for Body Armor up to $1000! Amazing. Mr. M. has set the condition that he wishes to remain anonymous. I am putting JJ in charge of this, so those who are interested in kicking in, please e-mail him, and he will get in touch with you.


and here.

This says to me that Major K is basically having to create a CID unit, develop informants, analyze information and go out to "get the bad guys" while, at the same time, his unit interacts with the political, reconstruction and combat aspects.

I'm not criticizing this activity, but pointing it out as the new reality of the new war. In essence things like what I point to above need to be taken into consideration. Even if the Pentagon is slow to act and develop these needs on a whole military, units should be prepared and take necessary actions to develop these necessities before arriving in theater.

Here is what I think a unit requires before arriving in theater:

Officers trained by the CID, FBI or other trained detectives in developing leads, organizing criminal investigations, basic interrogation techniques, methods for creating informants, supplying them, infiltrating criminal gangs, etc.

I realize there are MI units, but it seems to me that there are not enough of them to go around and it would behoove units to develop their own internal capabilities with assistance of two or three actual MI personnel and use the MI units to support second and third phase interrogations and intelligence as Ciggy talks about here:

1. Tactical Phase. In this phase, information in the "head" of the individual taken captive is fresh, probably still valid, and has the highest degree of likelihood to generate actionable intelligence for our troops. All interrogation geared toward intelligence-gathering should be focused on this phase, to be carried out by small Military Intelligence units (2 or 3 96Cs) attached to each combat unit at the Company level. [snip]

Intelligence that is gathered in this way should straight-flow to any combat unit that can benefit from it (preferably via encrypted text messages to unit commanders), as a first wave of notification, and THEN flow up the "chain" to add to databanks of more centralized intelligence warehouses accessible to various intelligence agencies.


If necessary, this is where "contracters" might actually be the most use. There must be many retired police officers, detectives, FBI or DEA agents, etc that have expertise in developing "cases". And, based on what Major K says in other sections of his blog, they don't simply take the word of an "informant" and go shake down would be suspects, though they have more leaway than a state side criminal investigation without as much legal oversight though JAG does give advice. When developing leads, they actually seem to do similar activities as a law enforcement officer stateside in getting their informants to get digitial voice or film recordings of activities to insure that they actually do have the "bad guys" and developing corroberating information.

If I was in the border areas near Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Syria, I would look at ways of infiltrating the smuggling gangs. These gangs work on money, just like drug, car thief and other gangs in the US. The same are in Iraq, but difficulties may arise because many of these gangs are tribal efforts and infiltrating a tribe would be difficult. Thus, to fight this aspect of the war, money, large quantities of money would have to be available to buy them off. Also, the possibility of making money "legitimately" by helping these smuggling groups develop business opportunities that would net them comparative or near to comparative profits.

The "stick" part of this operation would be to threaten the gang with forceful disbandment or imprisonment, seizure of assetts, if a tribe, relocation, etc. Every tool must be brought to bear against these groups.

For smaller criminal gangs, the pay off may be that they are not actively sought out in relationship to petty crimes or money. If they don't cooperate, the same treatment, they will be harrassed, arrested, brought in regularly for questioning, their houses searched, whatever it takes to disrupt their activities.

I would have a unit whose sole job will be to undertake these operations continuously within my own command.

I would also select "civil affairs" officers whose sole jobs were to develop relationships with tribal elders, political or urban leaders. Units specifically trained in civil affairs are not as abundant as they should be, in great demand and still don't get all the training necessary to deal with the culture. I understand that soldiers are given some basic information on interacting with the populace. Simple rules about the culture and interaction. However, posts from Iraqi bloggers regarding check point operations and misunderstandings and cultural contrasts 3, cultural contrsts 2, cultural contrast 1, lesson 2, lesson 1, speaking "Iraqi Arabic", and, my favorite, which pokes fun at the "cultural flash cards" given to soldiers .

I have wondered about the type of training are men and women are receiving. I've also noted from female soldiers blogging that they are often a point of fascination in the tribal areas and often asked for personally to come back and attend meetings. I have seen pictures of these meetings and hope that some sort of debriefing information on learned techniques of interaction are filtering up and out at the unit level to develop quicker and more accurate methods of interaction. I do wonder, aside from photographers or simply personal photos taken by soldiers, if each small unit is not provided with a digital camera to video tape these small meetings, not just the large political meetings or building openings, in order to distribute and use for training above and beyond photos or written manuals.

In my unit, I would get in touch with a unit already over, particularly the one I am replacing and ask them to send back videos, pictures, names, relationships, etc and have my selected group memorize them, learn the activities first hand, not wait until I got in theater to the FOB. Other preparations might include seeking out state side local families from Iraq or that particular area that could give real time lessons on cultural behavior, politesse and tribal politics on a personal, one on one level.

The best way to learn is to see and do. Waiting to do this on this detail level until the unit is in theater makes the operational pace slow down and can result in the incoming unit causing the progress from the outgoing unit to be reduced or completely lost, starting the process all over again.

In the same manner, military police units would not be guarding convoys. Military police would be better used to conduct basic raids, search and siezure activities. The things that they are trained to do. Combat units are, as Major K pointed out in another post, combat units are not scapels, but hammers and axes. He also said the iraqi military units are more like chainsaws. I also wonder if MP units are not assigned to work with, stay in station with and conduct operations with local police forces. This could help training these forces in real police activities, keep an eye on these units that have been doing business like the old regime and have been infiltrated by terrorists, criminals and their own tribal or sectarian associations taking precedence above the legal and civil protection activities.

It seems to cut off the lower level activities in support of the insurgents and jihadists would be the first step. Putting MPs with the Iraqi police will help develop civil society ops from a legal stand point, garner information and frankly, with eyes on the situation, would make the police more nervous about cooperating with criminal and "insurgent" elements as well as sow some distrust among these cooperatives, particularly when information from these types of ops result in capturing criminals and insurgents. This will also define to the police officers that they have only two choices: criminal, jihadist, insurgent, tribal relations or "police" for the people.

Civil Affairs designated units (whether trained MOS or designated for support) would be broken into four groups:

1) Think T.E. Lawrence. Pick officers and/or enlistees to live with the tribes or within the same environs as the local leaders. It doesn't take special forces only to take on this activity and certainly we don't have enough special forces, nor the resources to develop them, to do this activity with all the locals. Assign specific officers or small units to specific groups, do not change or rotate. Have them act as advocates for the tribe or leader to the local MNF forces' commander and political entities. In essence, go native.

2) Reconstruction/engineers: Assess development and over see local reconstruction. I understand we have these types of units already, however, on the small unit level, I would make sure that their sole jobs is to go from neighborhood to neighborhood, assess requirements and over see projects that would completely refurbish one neighborhood at a time. I'm thinking "broken windows" theory used in New York to reduce crime. Part of this required policing techniques as well as urban refurbishment that effectively made individual neighborhoods the "stars" of the areas. The problem I see with current activities is that they are wide spread and do not effectively resolve problems at a noticable level or to something that resembles "completion". This requires developing civil services like trash pick up, updating houses, electrical grids, schools, mosques, neighborhood watches (more part of the "civil society units activities but in conjunction with reconstruction).

Realizing that many of these activities take place, it still seems like it is a hit or miss activity and has not developed any "model neighborhoods" as a show piece to show what other neighborhoods or suburbs could receive if they cooperate and help force out the criminals and insurgent groups. I want to re-emphasize "focus". Obviously, other areas would still need focus and some activity, but I really think that one should focus on small areas and build out from there. When I say "small" I mean as small as a street in a neighborhood, work out from there. Obviously, hiring all the locals to do the work, either as construction, civil workers (trash, business and neighborhood association, etc).

It needs to be a showcase neighborhood that can be used for promotion. Pictures, films, and people from the neighborhood willing to speak to people in adjoining neighborhoods about the projects and outcomes.

3) Business Development: Unemployment and economics are still the main issue. It is fairly well known that unemployed men are easily used for criminal and insurgent activities. Men will place IEDs for a few dollars. Therefore, to control the security of individual neighborhoods, the entire neighborhood must be engaged from civil services to politics to security to reconstruction to business. Real efforts at developing businesses, employment opportunitinies, bringing internal and external money into the neighborhood with legitimate and long term opportunities. This could include bringing in simple manufacturing jobs near by if the security is sufficient. If in a rural/agricultural area, these specialists would learn about agricultural coops, irrigation, animal husbandry, marketing and transport of goods, etc. It is my bet that we have people in the forces that literally have this experience already and should be assigned based on this civilian experience.

Information and video of the area where the unit will be operating, data on current activities would be supplied with any information on business and economic activities currently being undertaken either by the military units or private individuals.

4) Civil society and political activities: this group would be responsible for working with the political process, helping develop organizations, working with the local MP/Local Police, the "native advocates" and the business management forces in developing the whole area. These forces would be trained about political processes, developing political parties, urban or rural councils, even if their original duties were not civil affairs.

Training prior to deployment would include seminars and lectures from political strategists, tours of local, state side city councils and a mock town with different "political" or "sectarian groups" where my unit had to develop consensus, political understanding, teach democracy, develop civil service activities, manage city money, hiring employees, dealing with claims from civilians, developing accountability within the city, etc.

I want to pause and tell you I believe that these activities do take place within Iraq. What I'm advocating is changing the scale and type of training or support given to our forces prior to deployment and recognize that no MOS that currently exists and is being deployed to Iraq can be expected to remain only operating in that MOS. It isn't happening. Therefore, commanders of artillery units must be prepared to act as civil affairs, police, detectives, business managers, etc and I'm thinking that this is not being driven sufficiently before deployment.

Also, I believe that this has to be developed at the small unit scale where these people would essentially become "managers" using Iraqi forces and sources more than even currently happening. I also believe that pre-deployment assessment teams from the units should be sent to Iraq (are they now) to assess, gather information on current activities and bring it back to the units in preparation for deployment. If I'm not mistaken, these units know that they will deploy well in advance so, as early as possible, assessment teams should be sent to gather information, coalesce and dessiminate the information.

The military has a tendency to centralize and dessiminate this information as "general rules" and "operational standards", but what they really need is the expertise of the on the ground folks passed on early and often to the units BEFORE they are deployed to accompany the usual few weeks of overlapping deployment with the previous unit where they try to learn the situation on the ground in a few weeks.

Even with MOUT, I don't think it's sufficient nor efficient and should be specific to the units and the area they are deploying too.

Now, I want to finish with comments on deployment of "combat troops". With the comment about troops being "sledge hammers" from Major K and the offsetting comments by Iraqi bloggers, even those that are pro-democracy and pro-American invasion, should tell us that continuing to use combat forces as "policing" forces on a large scale and in the phases they are used is causing a problem with the "hearts and minds" aspect of the war. Combat units should be used for backing up Iraqi military activities, supporting raids by Military Police that are supporting Iraqi police (not just soldiers supporting Iraqi military activities and should not be used in basic search, harrassment and seizures, but limited to large scale ops), guard convoys, do large scale cordon and interdiction efforts.

In regards to small units and developing neighborhoods, where ever we were undertaking the "broken windows" project, I would have a unit whose job was to completely surround and control access to this area in conjunction with local military or police. Otherwise, I would have them less apparent on the streets. Quick reaction forces to deploy in response to activities in "protected" neighborhoods undergoing rejuvenation or other hotspots.

We need to control neighborhoods completely, but with less intrusive footprint and appearance. Still, I think that a unit has to be able to focus on one area and that inside the unit, the officers and enlisted men have to be able to and allowed to focus on small areas and creating complete "model neighborhoods".

To me, it seems like money is being flung around, wide and far without having a noticable, immediate impact. I'm not talking about building schools here and there or digging wells. Those are useful and can have an immediate impact on the area, but do not really complete the development of the area or meet the expectations of the locals.

Also, it seems to me that, as well as our troops are handling it, small units are responsible for every aspect of these activities, involved in every activity and not focused or specially developed.

As many people understand, it is easier to teach small groups to be efficient and cohesive then trying to get large groups to know, understand and act on every need. We also know, as stated that the units being used are not originally MP, civil affairs, engineers, or military intelligence but they are taking on that responsibility.

If transforming the military on a large scale basis is difficult and time consuming when we don't have time for this large scale activities to effect activities in Iraq, then I would suggest that battalion commanders and smaller units should look at these necessities themselves.


Broken Windows 1

Broken Windows 2

The Tipping Point.

Thomas P M Barnett

3 comments:

Tyler Pieron said...

Excellent Analysis!

Anonymous said...

the one point you did not elaborate on was the issue of border security. the logistics line for the bad guys is as important as the good guys. they goods are often smuggled through 'legit' borders by various means of trade fraud.

our high tech applications to combat this 'line of business as usual' in third word settings-mobile scanners, dusting questionable carreirs' vehicles, etc are great 'private sector business opportunities for local tribes. much work has been done in pakistan and sri lanka to make border security-a great growth business for those concerned with stability.

the 'business development' aspects of the GWOT are enormous-lets get the word out-it works.

greetings from downtown dubai!!!!

Anonymous said...

Concur. As a former 9666.xxx, CI Officer, Special Agent, MI, I've run a few low level Sources that have paid off in going up the ladder and in giving operational warnings.