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Gen Vines: Insurgency is 4 broad groups
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, June 21, 2005

LTG Vines, commander of the multi-national force in Iraq, outlined the insurgency today in a news conference as consisting of 4 broad groups:
There are four broad groups, I think, within this insurgency, and the insurgency, quite honestly, is quite narrow. The level of support for violence is pretty narrow. The jihadists or the Zarqawi elements—sometimes referred to the al Qaeda and associated movements here in country—that number is not very large, but it is very violent. It has access to some technical capability, and it uses foreign fighters, historically, primarily to murder other Iraqis. It brings in foreigners, and they kill themselves and others, sometimes in vehicles, sometimes with—they'll put a vest on and detonate it among a group. And it's—so foreigners that are brought in typically do things that Iraqis won't do to each other. That's the history of them.

There are also some Sunni religious extremists within the country. That is also a fairly narrow group. Their opposition to the new government is based on religious objections. Again, that group is quite small, but it is very violent.

Then, there's some regime elements who essentially—a broader group, a few thousand, perhaps, and if they had a bumper sticker it would probably say, "If you like Saddam, you'd love us," because they want to resume power. And then, there's also some—a broader group of principally Sunni, but a large—a fairly significant number of Iraqis want to see all foreign forces leave the country, and that's understandable. We have no long-term objectives here.
To recap:

1. The Zarqawi elements. Not large but very violent and composed mostly of foreigners.

2. Sunni religious extremists. Also not a large group.

3. Leftover regime elements. A broader, larger group.

4. Predominantly Sunni group who wants foreign forces to leave the country. A broader, larger group.

The next question to Vines deals with whether there are divisions within the groups.
Well, I would say absolutely. Foreign fighters coming in here to murder Iraqis; it's astonishing to me that that is not clearly evident to many Iraqis; that people recruited in other countries by extremists who wish to seize power are brought in to murder children, women, innocent men and women. And what we see here is those people are hidden from the Iraqi populace. They don't circulate freely, and they're kept in small cells. And then, they're brought forward to when they're ready to their murderous work.

And so, yes, there is a very definite schism between the foreign fighters and the average Iraqi.
OK, then what does that mean? Why were the last two months so deadly and are they getting outside help?
It appears to us that they're getting outside help to conduct their insurgency. Attacks against the civilian populace were certainly—were, in May—was the highest total since major combat operations terminated in 2003. And it is primarily, again, murders in mass numbers: people who drive cars into mosques or into crowded markets and detonate them. And again, it's very difficult to protect a populace against someone who is willing to murder themselves and others. And so we've seen an increased attack against them.

The foreign fighters are what amounts to a terrorist cruise missile. They can target a specific element without having to worry about their own survival. So they chose to use those in numbers. And because in reality, the insurgency is not very broad; you're not seeing large numbers of armed groups, you're seeing one- and two-person cells that are attacking a large group by driving into a crowded market and detonating themselves.
I like the analogy. Terrorist cruise missiles. Gen. Vines also nicely outlines why they are so hard to combat. They have no worry about survival, so they take chances and do things someone who would worry about survival wouldn't do.

Again asked to amplify on the increased sophistication, Vines adds:
Well, they are certainly getting some outside advice, but there is some technical expertise that was resident in the Iraqi army, probably from their explosive ordnance personnel. And in reality, it is not so much that there's incredible technical expertise, but we see occasionally multiple IEDs. We might see an improvised explosive device that would detonate, and then when the first responders are there, both the Iraqi security forces and the coalition forces arrive on the scene, perhaps one will detonate 30 minutes later. Their tactics have become more sophisticated—in some cases—to be sure. And so that is, again—terrorism enabled by some limited military capacity. And it is resident here in the country.
So the bottom line is the technical expertice is not particularly sophisticated, but the tactical expertice is evolving into a more sophisticated method.

So, General, you said they're getting outside advice. Where's that coming from?
The suicide bombers, of course, you know—you heard where they're probably coming from. They're coming from places like Sudan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt. That is our belief. The tactical expertise to do that, that capability exists here in the country.
Note, the foreign suicide bombers are coming from group 1 listed above. The IEDs and the "tactical expertice" are most likely from groups 3 and 4.

Another area Gen. Vines covered was the creation of a new Iraqi security force (which includes both the army and police forces) and what that entails. One of the questions involves leadership and its importance:
Leadership is something that has to be developed. People don't just walk up and say, "I'm a leader," and demonstrate capacity. And so—keep in mind that we hit the one-year mark next week. And so leaders have to develop. And there have been many strong leaders that have emerged, and mid-grade leaders in other units still have to be found. And let's just be honest about that.

So it is not a case of not having quality persons. They exist, but sometimes you have to make sure that they're in the right place. And so developing leaders takes a long time. We know this, for example, in the United States military. It's a career-long progression.
During the Vietnam era we tried instant NCOs, who were called "shake and bake". While they were good and willing soldiers, there was no way to instil in them, over a 90 day period, the experience a good NCO develops over years of service. Same thing here. Developing good leadership takes time.

Another thing General Vines discussed is something we take for granted because its been in place for so long. But imagine starting over and developing "national capacity":
In terms of national capacity, many of the things that we take for granted, for example, in the United States—our logistical support that comes from a well-developed Department of Defense and our various depots, our personnel systems that ensure well-trained replacements, the ability to deliver pay on time, every time; those capacities are not resident in a government that didn't exist a year ago. And so we have to make sure that when we're providing food for soldiers, that that food is available every day. When we're providing life support, that it's available every day.

And so developing the capacity for a bureaucracy, which—bureaucracy has taken on, perhaps, a negative connotation in some parts of the United States. But a bureaucracy is necessary to sustain a government, and certainly to sustain security forces. And that's what's in the process of being developed, and it takes time.
We've had it in place for decades, centuries and we still see SNAFUs. Imagine trying to stand the entire system up at once and make it work. As you can imagine, it might take some time to work through all the wrinkles and problems.

And, asked how long the development of national capacity might take Gen. Vines responded:
It'll be a continuous process. And that is not my primary area of focus. I use the forces that the bureaucracy sustains and fields. And so I have less visibility on that. Other agencies are working that, and we've seen progress. But I suspect they will be working at still developing capacity a couple years from now. That would be my guess.
Personally, I think that's a fairly optimistic guess, but he may be right. But it makes the point that this isn't an instant process where we declare we want an army and poof, one exists. Its a long, slow process if the desired end result is a quality product.

Gen Vines also was asked his opinion on whether the insurgency was in its "last throes". He avoided that question (and I don't blame him since it is a poltically loaded question and generals don't get paid to be political) and instead focused on his opinion of what will end the insurgency:
The solution to the insurgency in Iraq is not a purely political solution. It has to be a government that's acceptable to the broad populace as a group. That has to be acceptable—Sunni, Shi'a, Kurd and other elements. And if that government, if the transitional government has the wisdom to oversee the constitutional drafting and drafts a constitution that is acceptable to the larger segments of the population and is ratified—I mean, my assessment is the insurgency could dwindle down very quickly. And that remains to be seen what form the constitution will take.

It could be sustained militarily for a period of time. Our responsibility is to provide space and time for this process to work, so that this new government and the constitutional process, the election process, is allowed to proceed without being murdered in its infancy by insurgents who don't want to see it succeed.

The Iraqi security forces are making good progress, but the solution ultimately will be a political one, of course.
And that's what those of us who've followed this closely have known from the beginning. Iraq will either form a government which removes the basis for the insurgency by providing, as Gen. Vines says, a government "that is acceptable to the larger segments of the population", or it will do the opposite and fuel the insurgency to a larger and popularly based activity aimed at toppling it.

All indications are that it is headed in the direction of a broad and inclusive government. What Gen. Vines is saying is if given the time to establish itself, that type of government will starve the insurgency of the fuel it needs to continue burning.

A pretty interesting interview which gives those who think we're losing the war something to think about. Gen. Vines knows its going to be a long, tough road, but my interpretation of his remarks leave me feeling the situation is well in hand and proceeding as planned.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

1. The Zarqawi elements. Not large but very violent and composed mostly of foreigners.

2. Sunni religious extremists. Also not a large group.

3. Leftover regime elements. A broader, larger group.

4. Predominantly Sunni group who wants foreign forces to leave the country. A broader, larger group

He left out a 5th group:

5. The Democratic Party and their associated media hangers-on.
Written By: shark
URL: http://
General Vimes came across very well in the interview, he made an attempt to answer almost all questions and appeared knowledgeable in all he answered. The only one I could find unanswered (and yes I was looking) was the second part of double barrelled question regarding funding for the insurgency.

Q: What’s the top dollar? And who’s paying?

GEN. VINES: (Chuckles.) Well, I don’t know that you can assign a top dollar. I mean, how much do you pay someone who’s going to murder some other people when they kill themselves? So—but it’s typically in the—a few hundred dollars involved in specific attacks, is our experience.

STAFF: Let’s go over here, to Jamie.
I would be very interested to hear who General Vimes believes is paying for the insurgency.

He had pointed out that the insugency is mainly Sunni and mainly driven by money. So maybe we put together a list of rich Sunni and see who sits at the top.
Written By: Unaha-closp
URL: http://

Hmmmm. How much did Saddam skim off Oil-for-Food? For how long?

You think, during the "rush to war," which lasted nearly half a year, that maybe Saddam squirreled money in various locales, transferred funds to new accounts, set up bag men and drop sites to fuel this little effort? Maybe in conjunction w/ Uday, who headed the Saddam fedayeen?

You think maybe some of that money might be out there even now, available especially to the ex-Baathists and the like?

Indeed, I seem to recall reading, possibly here, a few months ago an assessment that the al-Qaeda types and the ex-Baathists were, in fact, coordinating their efforts. The al-Qaeda types had access to better bomb-building techniques, while the Baathists had Saddam’s money.

You don’t have to look beyond Iraqi borders to find who might have access to money.
Written By: Lurking Observer
URL: http://
It’s unfortunate that there’s one thing that unites all these Or more specifically, our occupation of Iraq. It seems to me that should be factored into the equation governing how and when we’ll withdraw from Iraq.
Written By: David in AK
URL: http://

Recruitment in Eygpt, Saudi, Sudan, Yemen - suggests an international organisation, suggests to me Al Qaeda. Plus we have Saddam wired for sound, if he had a plan to do this he would have used it to bargain by now. And finally, America would have found some of these stashes by now if they existed.

But if you are right then it is the best possible outcome. The Baathists are showing signs of joining the democratic process, if you are right we are in the death throes of the insurgency.
Written By: Unaha-closp
URL: http://
Its articles and analysis like this that make this blog valuable.
Written By: Thomas Jackson
URL: http://

Saddam still thinks (or at least claims that he thinks) that he will be returned to power. David in AK’s strategy would probably lead to that result. Why in the world, if you thought your opponents would withdraw and leave you be, would you give up your bargaining chips?

And are you really suggesting that the Al-Qaeda types would somehow not cooperate w/ the Baathists, if each thought they had something to gain?

But, no, I am not of the opinion that we are in the "death throes" of the insurgency, not at all.

I believe that we will have a long ways to go, still. Especially if the aim, as some have claimed, is to have no IEDs, car bombs, etc. After all, the Israelis can’t guarantee that even within the pre-’67 borders. Maggie Thatcher barely avoided being blown up in Brighton. So, if you set a high enough bar (e.g., no crime in California), you can rest assured it will never be attained.

And the comments of Durbin, Pelosi, et. al., calling for prompt withdrawals, dates certain for pulling out, etc., only embolden the enemy. No, I’m not claiming they are traitors, I am merely noting that such comments, like the Left’s anti-war demonstrations during Vietnam, aid the enemy’s will to resist. As I noted above—-if you think the Americans don’t have the willpower to stay, why in the world would you think you needed to negotiate? You’ll get what you want in one, two, four years.

The best thing I see in these postings is that there is already dissension in terms of means (and almost certainly in terms of ends). This has little to do with us, and much to do w/ the diverging goals of the various groups.

—Commitment and resolve to stay and see the job through (compelling the enemy to heavily discount the future)

—Helping establish a stable gov’t (access to legitimate power),

—Helping revive the economy (economic incentives and legitimacy in the eyes of the broader populace, the "sea" w/in which the guerillas swim),

—Killing as many of the various groups as possible (imposing short-term costs),

—And often making the locals see the real face of the enemy (such as occurred in Fallujah, when the al-Qaeda types promptly tried to impose shar’ia upon the less fervent locals) results in widening cracks in the edifice.

Each of the four groups has different incentives, internal aims, and cost-benefit analyses. The current approach exacerbates those differences.

Whether the cracks can be widened in time, before the David in AK’s and others compel a withdrawal, that’s the question.
Written By: Lurking Observer
URL: http://
It’s unfortunate that there’s one thing that unites all these Or more specifically, our occupation of Iraq. It seems to me that should be factored into the equation governing how and when we’ll withdraw from Iraq.

So we let the insurgency drive the mission?

Look, we know one group, one of the broader groups, will most likely cease operations when we leave. They are the only group which would most likely consider knocking off operations if we announced a withdrawl date. My guess is the other 3 would step up operations in an effort to destabalize the fledgling Iraqi government so it would be easily toppled after we’d left.

As Gen Vines points out (and as the administration has pointed out), our withdrawl should be "condition-based". And those condidtions would include the condition of the government (i.e. have they written and agreed on the consitution and elected their government under it), the army (are they able to conduct battalion sized operations independetly), the national capacity (can their military infrastructure support the military), their national infrastructure (is it in good enough shape to support Iraq) and the insurgency (is it essentially controlable).

When those conditions are met, then we should get out of Dodge, but not a moment sooner. That, btw, doesn’t mean we can’t draw down our troops strength as we approach those conditions.
Written By: McQ
And finally, America would have found some of these stashes by now if they existed.
Actually we have. We have found piles of them. Saddam himself was captured with a large amount of money. The problem is that there is still a lot out there.
Written By: Lance
URL: http://

I agree with almost all the points provided in your post. Most will work to move nationalist and Baathist groups into the mainstream Iraqi society.

But - Killing as many of the various groups as possible (imposing short-term costs),

This is problematic, each collateral damage created by these killings fuels nationalist anti-American feelings. When the Iraqis get better intelligence they should be able to do a better job.

To your points I would like to add

- foreign funding for terrorism to be stopped.

After all, the Israelis can’t guarantee that even within the pre-’67 borders. Maggie Thatcher barely avoided being blown up in Brighton. So, if you set a high enough bar (e.g., no crime in California), you can rest assured it will never be attained.

That is too defeatist, the IRA attacks have ceased now. One of the reasons they lasted for so long was that the IRA could rely upon funding from Irish ethnic communities in places like Boston. For obvious reasons the British were unable to stop this funding and even during the peace process fund raisers shipped cash to the IRA and real IRA. However after 911 and the introduction of meaningful anti-terrorist laws in USA this funding has ceased to exist.

In Israel the same applies. Before Saddam was deposed he used to provide funding to the families of martyrs, which incited more terrorism. Now Saddam has been eliminated the cash incentive to carry out a suicide attack has lessened, but has not gone away because Gulf state charities increased the amount they offer for the same purpose.

And Lance - yes cash stashes have been found, but any amount of cash that can be wrapped into a bundle pales to insignificance beside the amount of boom time oil revenue available to Islamic charity in friendly Gulf states.
Written By: Unaha-closp
URL: http://

Maybe so, but everything I read is that most of this is low budget stuff, well within the few hundred million lying around. Still your comment on Iraq’s neighbors is well taken.
Written By: Lance
URL: http://

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