Sunday, July 10, 2005

Missing: Iraq in the News

In case you missed it in the news on Saturday, Iraq was missing from the front page of almost every news organization. Not the quotes of people blaming the British participation in the Iraq war for the terrorist bombings in England.

What was missing were the reports of casualties from coalition forces. The only report in the last two days was Friday, July 8th when an IED (improvised explosive device) exploded killing one soldier and wounding three. On Saturday, July 9th, there was no such report. No casualties.


Even the defense link and found nothing about casualties for Saturday.

What is being reported is this:

WASHINGTON, July 9, 2005 – Task Force Baghdad soldiers secured a site about 15 kilometers north of Baghdad after a terrorist detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device July 8.
Four soldiers were injured in the attack and were evacuated to a medical facility.

The car-bomb driver approached the task force patrol from the rear and struck the back of the trail vehicle before detonating.

Military officials report that several shops in the area were damaged by the blast.

"The terrorists continue to show their disregard for the Iraqi people and the sovereignty of the Iraqi nation. In this particular attack, the suicide car bomber burned down a series of shops in Sheik Amir Village," said Col. David Bishop, commander of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division.

The incident is under investigation.

In two separate incidents, also on July 8 in east Baghdad, Iraqis turned the tables and took a deliberate stand against terror.

In the first incident, a local citizen observed terrorists placing a roadside bomb and provided a tip to the Iraqi police. The police responded, cordoned off the area and coordinated with the 720th Military Police Battalion and a coalition explosive ordnance disposal team to disable the bomb. EOD safely destroyed the bomb with a controlled detonation.

The improvised explosive device consisted of a 125 mm tank round with a remote-controlled device.

The second incident occurred when an Iraqi civilian provided information on an illegal weapons dealer.

Elements of 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, responded and captured the weapons dealer who possessed a sniper rifle, a submachine gun and three AK-47 rifles.

"Once again, the people of Iraq have shown they will not tolerate anti-Iraqi forces operating in their neighborhoods," said Staff Sgt. Craig Zentkovich, 2nd Brigade Combat Team spokesman.

On July 7, Iraqi police patrolling in Baghdad's Ghazaliyah area stopped a suspected vehicle-borne IED carrying three suspected terrorists.

After police secured the site around the car, the vehicle ran past police barriers and into a nearby police compound.

The police opened fire on the vehicle, killing all three occupants before they could detonate the car bomb. One compound guard reported he'd seen one terrorist trying to trigger a detonation device before being shot.

Upon closer inspection of the vehicle, police discovered four 55-gallon drums connected to the car battery. The drums contained 600 pounds of homemade explosives, said Task Force Baghdad officials.

The drums were later destroyed in a controlled detonation by a Task Force Baghdad EOD team. [snip]

That same day in East Baghdad's Zafaraniya district, a resident reported the location of two 155-millimeter artillery rounds to a patrol from 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.

1st Lt. Terry J. Rivera, the patrol leader, immediately recognized these artillery rounds as the same type used by terrorists to make roadside and car bombs.

Rivera cordoned off the area for the safety of the local population and called in an EOD, which detonated the 100-pound rounds with no damage to local property or residents.

"The local Iraqi comments about increased security due to improved (Iraqi security force) capability and resolve are not empty statements," said Lt. Col. Steven Merkel, 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery's commander. "The common citizen is now stepping forward and helping the Iraqi security forces and coalition forces win the right for their families to walk the streets in peace.

In the past two months, the Iraqi 2nd Public Order Brigade, along with the U.S. Field Artillery's 1st battalion, conducted eight joint operations targeting anti-Iraqi forces.

Military officials said that while these operations produced some immediate results, the long-term effects are just now beginning to be felt. [snip]

In other news, Marines from 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 8, detained 22 suspected terrorists during targeted raid operations near Fallujah.

Operation Scimitar, also known as Operation Qmtia, began July 7th in Zaidon, 30 kilometers southeast of Fallujah. About 100 Iraqi soldiers and 500 U.S. Marines are conducting security operations to deny anti-Iraqi sanctuary for planning, training and storing ammunition.

The operation follows a series of counter-terrorism operations initiated by Marines in Al Anbar, Iraq. These operations are designed to disrupt terrorist activity.

The last large-scale Marine Operation Saif, or Sword, was conducted in the Hit-Haditha corridor June 28 to July 7.

What's it all mean?

Add to it the information that we know, aside from the ongoing operations, we have sunni Iraqis joining the constitution process and certain factions of the Sunni insurgency negotiating for political voice. Zarqawi was injured and several key figures in the insurgency and terror organizations have been rounded up in these ongoing operations.

According to reports, attacks are down by half in Baghdad, though other reports indicate the average number of attacks within Iraq proper areaboutt he same. However, the nature of the attacks are changing. Full frontal attacks on units They've been changing and rapidly in the last two years.

This does point to an intelligent enemy. But it also points to an enemy that sees its own enemy as implacable and undeterred by previous attacks, they've changed from large scale attacks against coalition forces, to attacking Iraqi police, military and government sources, attempting to stir sectarian strife, to attacking civilians and infrastructure with a few continuing VBIEDs and IEDs, to kidnapping foreign diplomats and, without a doubt, activating a cell (small and untrained as they probably were) inside a coalition country in order to motivate political opposition to the war, cause a major coalition force to be withdrawn, undermine the force and political will of the other coalition forces in order to give themselves some breathing room.

Why now? Because they are losing in key aspects of conducting a true insurgency/guerilla war. The "ocean" they swim in, mainly the Iraqi population unhappy abut the occupation, unhappy to be out of power or unhappy that they may be marginalized in a country where they are truly the minority, is being shrunk day by day by all of the activities that areoccurringg. Whether that is the political process, the anger over civilian deaths within their own community brought by the Islamists and insurgents, the continuing operations to sweep up members or just the general malaise that may enter a movement when they see that those they oppose are not and have not been moved by their activities it is happening, ever so slowly. Largely unreported, the city of Mosul that has been under constant attack by Islamists and insurgents, recently staged a demonstration against terrorism, boasting approximately 1500 to 2000 attendees. Small, but telling as the demonstration was held within the largely Sunni sector of the city.

Other factors are also at play. While the insurgency certainly has access to huge amounts of weapons and ammunition within Iraq, these are not indefinite or unlimited. Coalition and Iraqi forces continue to receive more information about known or suspected caches and arms dealers, destroying them every day. Neither is the money used to pay for IEDs or pay families for suicide activities unlimited. There are two factors impacting finances, getting it through as raids continue to sweep up financiers and interrupt flow across specific borders (mainly Syria) and those that are financing it may see it as a negative cost to benefit as the war continues on and uses up their own financial resources. If one is going to conduct a propaganda and guerilla war aimed at financially ruining a larger adversary, it makes little sense to continue on in the same manner when said adversary's economy continues to boom and current tactics seem to be grating on would be supporters.

In short, guerrilla warfare tactics of attritting forces and resources, works in both directions.

Manpower for the guerilla war must also be waning to some degree, also due to continuing operations to cut off the flow from outside the country, round up operation and financial assetts and, of course, using them in one time, one off suicide operations. The suicide attacks have two effects: killing of "re-usable" assetts (en mass as we saw in April and part of May) and demoralizing some would be recruits that had a rather romantacized view of what "fighting the infidel" would be like (ie, an AK-47, RPG or heavy machine gun standing up and shooting the enemy, maybe surviving to fight another day in a long "holy war"). Iraq still has huge tribal connections and that, as some continue to negotiate with the government or see that their tribe is being unnecessarily decimated in continuing attacks or that money can be made much easier and much safer by cooperating with Iraqi and Coalition forces, these resources, too, are being drained off the insurgency.

No insurgency can survive indefinitely at the pace they were going without consistent flow of men and finances. Other drains on finances from Islamist groups is money, however limited, being sent to organizations in southeast Asia (eg, Thailand, Philipines, Indonesia, Kashmir, Afghanistan/Pakistan; numerous sites of onging Islamist activity) and Iraq, as well as operations within many countries aimed at disrupting flow through unregulated charities and business fronts.

This doesn't mean that it's over, it means another change in tactics and a different pace of operations for the insurgents. At least, for the mean time. The expectations should be for continued low key and intermittent IEDs and VBIEDs; assassinations and kidappings if they can (at least until certain contingents tighten up their own security, such as Arab state representatives) while the insurgent and Islamist base review operation planning, re-establish logistics and supply lines, lobby for additional funds and establish more secure lines through which money can flow, work on their recruiting and, lat but not least, consolidate and conserve as much of the remaining resources to pull off a major attack within and without Iraq on an irregular, but continuing basis.

What they will look for is any sign of complacency or lax security in any one area by coalition or Iraqi forces, particularly in areas that may not have seen an attack for some time.

If the Islamist insurgents have learned anything from long, low key operations in Egypt or other operations around the world it is that this is the time to go deeper within the social sectors they are continuing to inhabit, become less overt in their actions and slowly build up resources (eg, men, money and materials) until they are able to pull off another simultaneous attack on multiple targets. This will be repeated on a varying cycle, but probably not as intense or prolonged as April and May. The immediate danger is, of course, in Iraq and Afghanistan, not withstanding the current Islamist activities in Thailand (which are largely based on a separatist movement, but have probably been receiving some training, material and financial assistance from the greater Islamist movement). With the advent of operation Scimitar, we should see at least one more major operation

However, activities in countries around the world, in particular Europe, in robust counter terrorism activities designed to thwart money, recruiting and operations may help to strangle their ability even further. Part of that "robust" operations will include outreach programs to Muslim communities within European countries with simultaneous round ups and deportations of known extremists for various crimes that might have otherwise seen them fined or serving short sentences within their host countries before being released back into their communities.

The United States must do the same intense outreach programs to Muslim communities with the understanding that these communities are more at risk from internal sources than from the government or law enforcement. There are indications that radicalism is less overt in the US, but should not be discounted as investigations have shown US citizens to be active in movements from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

One cannot discount the attacks in London as part of the over all strategy of the movement. While Al Qaida is no longer considered (and never was in some intelligence communities) a "monolithic" organization, it can still reach out to its smaller franchises and associates around the globe and press for attacks in coordination with its ongoing direct war. While the plan may have taken a year to assemble members, materials and resources, the dates of such attacks are sometimes fluid. This may be the over riding reason for attack on Thursday. Not simply a terrorist attack for a single political statement, but in order to bring the war back into western countries which was the original intent of the Islamist attacks on western ground and assetts around the globe since 1993. Particularly, as the western strategy has been developed around taking the war to the Islamists within their own home territories and countries that have historically supported them.

Iraq may have been missing from the greater news today due in no small part to the London tragedy and looming hurricanes, but it was also missing from its lack of death and destruction. There are those in congress and within the country that are demanding clear benchmarks that will indicate the war is making progress.

Don't expect declarations of victory. The best benchmark to measure here at home is to watch the news as Iraq goes the way of Kosovo and Afghanistan, slowly disappearing from regular coverage and commentary, replaced by arguments over Supreme Court justices, abortion rights, political rivalries and 2006 campaigns.

The battle for Iraq will be over when it is "missing" in the news.

1 comment:

Roberto said...

I copy your remarks to a disk and take them back to Margarita Ville to read every time I come to the big city. I respect you commentary. Keep it up.