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The Iraq PR war kicks into high gear
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The LA Times Tina Sussman tells us:
The U.S. military buildup that was supposed to calm Baghdad and other trouble spots has failed to usher in national reconciliation, as the capital's neighborhoods rupture even further along sectarian lines, violence shifts
elsewhere and Iraq's government remains mired in political infighting.
Is it "shifting elsewhere"? Somewhat, yes. But then it isn't really having the effect on the work of reconstruction or security that some would believe. Again, talking with three separate Provincial Reconstruction Team members last week, that was my specific question. Jason Hyland [pdf] in Nineveh province:


The last sentence is pretty key as far as I'm concerned.

Steve Buckler, Salahuddin province [pdf]:


Again, an indication that while there has been some displacement, it hasn't been significant enough to impact their work and certainly doesn't seem to be considered 'significant' by Buckler.

BTW, I'm highlighting civilian members of the State department because they're a) very sensitive to security because of what their jobs entail and would b) security deterioration of any significance is likely to be more evident with them.

Howard Keegan, PRT team leader in Kirkuk [pdf]:


So while there certainly have been "violence shifts", it appears that for the most part they were anticipated and are being handled. Back to the LA Times:
Despite the plan, which has brought an additional 28,500 U.S. troops to Iraq since February, none of the major legislation that Washington had expected the Iraqi parliament to pass into law has been approved.
Note the reliance on the February date, when Phase I of the Surge began instead of Phase II, June, when the actual military operations of the Surge began. You remember this don't you?
Iraq's top Shi'ite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish political leaders announced on Sunday they had reached consensus on some key measures seen as vital to fostering national reconciliation.

The agreement by the five leaders was one of the most significant political developments in Iraq for months and was quickly welcomed by the United States, which hopes such moves will ease sectarian violence that has killed tens of thousands.
It is nicely underplayed in the LA Times piece:
President Bush and Crocker also lauded an announcement by Maliki that Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni leaders had resolved differences over some of the legislation sought by Washington. But Sunni leaders say this is not enough to make them end their boycott of parliament, which reconvenes today after a summer break.

The lack of Sunni participation would undermine the credibility of any bill passed into law.
Well we'll see about that won't we? But such a resolution of differences would argue strongly that perhaps those issues which prompted the walkout might have been discussed and resolved as well.

Anyway the interim conclusion, based on that analysis is:
"The military offensive has temporarily suppressed, or in many cases dislocated, armed groups," said Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group. "Once the military surge peters out, which it will if there is no progress on the political front, these groups will pop right back up and start going at each other's, and civilians', throats again."
Not exactly. This isn't a "military offensive" in the traditional sense of the word. This is a "clear and hold" operation (which is classified as an "offensive" operation but is clearly a counter-insurgency mission) which means if successful, and that includes turning it over to the ISF who then successfully continues the mission, these groups aren't going to "pop right back up". In fact, that's the whole point of the COIN strategy - to deny them that ability.

There are activities that naturally have to follow such operations, such as governance, reconstruction, economic development and rule of law. That is what the PRTs I've discussed are engaged in and they are making significant headway (be sure to read the interviews noted to understand that point).

And Anbar, phaa, it really has no significance:
Anbar's situation is far from solid, though. A bomber attacked a mosque in one of its main cities, Fallouja, on Aug. 27, killing at least 10 people, and scores of civilians and Iraqi security forces have died in bombings elsewhere in the province in recent months.

Anbar also represents just one particularly homogenous Sunni Arab slice. There is no indication that progress made there can be replicated on a grand enough scale to have a nationwide effect.
No indication that progress made there can be replicated on a grand scale to have a nationwide effect? Frederick Kagen disagrees:


How much better is it in Anbar? Here's COL Richard Simcox [pdf] of the Marine's 6th Regimental Combat Team in Anbar:
But I think what I told you last time was there's nothing out on the battlefield that a Marine rifle squad couldn't easily deal with. That is still true and probably more so.

And the main reason, again, for that is not really that, you know, my forces have changed. I've got the same forces here in RCT 6 that I've always had from a combat power standpoint. What has changed is the Iraqi equation to it. They continue to grow, Iraqi security forces, in the form of the Army, the Iraqi police, the provincial security forces, neighborhood watches. That has been the key element that has been able to allow me to do my mission and work with them so that we're both trying to accomplish the same thing.
And of course, that sort of ability (and desire) can't be grown anywhere else in Iraq, can it?

How about Baghdad proper:
The shakiness of Iraq's capacity for reconciliation under current conditions is especially evident in Baghdad, the focus of the buildup. The sprawling capital is a patchwork quilt of neighborhoods split along sectarian lines that appears to have become more balkanized, not less, in the last six months.

"The surge now is isolating areas from each other . . . and putting up permanent checkpoints. That is what I call a failure," said Yousif Kinany, an engineer in Hurriya, a northwestern area that has become primarily Shiite.

People who describe their neighborhoods as calm often attribute this to the sectarian "cleansing" of Sunnis or Shiites. Many say that better security is attributable to a heavy U.S. presence in their neighborhoods and that whenever those troops scale down operations, trouble returns.
Again, let's consider two things. The way you stop a fight is to separate the fighters first. Then after you've done that and calmed them down to the point that they're ready to listen (and not, instead, perpetuate the cycle of revenge and violence), you can begin to reconcile the differences. Perhaps after that is accomplished, reintegration will take care of itself.

Secondly, the entire point of the Surge is to set those conditions and then turn the work over to the ISF. Obviously if these neighborhoods remain hot spots, the troops there are less likely to be scaled back while troops in places which seem peaceful will be scaled back. Scaling back isn't an "all or nothing" business.

And I absolutely loved this sentence:
But no matter how much of a letdown Iraqis say the troop buildup has been, many here say withdrawing U.S. forces would make things worse. In areas where they are present, at least, violence is at bay, most Iraqis said.
Letdown? An operation that is a little over 90 days old and scheduled to run until April is now assessed as a 'letdown'? I guess that's better than a 'failure'.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Here is the thing about the Iraq PR war.....

Bush is going to get his way, even if he loses the PR war.

The rest is just inside baseball for political junikies and in-fighters. Red meat for both sides.

But at the end of the day, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi just won’t be able to exert their will on the Presidential policy.

They haven’t done it at any time. Nothing will change. Bush is in charge of this op.
Written By: shark
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