Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Wow! It Might Be Working!

Recent events in Iraq leave reason for optimism that we can ultimately be successful there. Civilian body counts are down. Car bombings are trending downward. And as is detailed here, civilians are providing more help to coalition troops as they develop relationships of trust.

I've stated here before that I don't think the Bush Administration has done a very good job in their plan for the post-invasion occupation of Iraq. I've also mentioned that I don't think adding 21,500 troops will improve much our ability to maintain security in the areas we have cleared in Iraq. I've mentioned my optimism that, if anything might work, it's the fact that General David Petraeus is now at the helm.

It may be a premature statement, but the Petraeus way of doing things appears to me to be paying dividends. In two recent incidents, increasing cooperation of Iraqi citizens has led to significant reductions in the ability of the insurgency to terrorize the Iraqi people.

Cybercast News Service reported today that

[] soldiers [] uncovered two underground rooms being used to store some 50 completed IEDs and materiel including grenades, end caps, blasting caps, welding equipment, 20 lbs. of bulk explosives, 200 bags of fertilizer and more than 1000 lbs. of urea, used with fertilizer in the production of car bombs. The rooms also contained shackles, apparently for restraining prisoners.

In another incident, an informant's tip led Iraqi police officers U.S. forces to a large cache of IEDs, rocket launchers, anti-aircraft rounds and other weaponry in the Baqubah area.

The idea of working with the civilian population to provide security (read: "Serving the People of Iraq") is the only way it's going to work. It appears that it just might be working. And a lot of the credit can likely go to General Petraeus. Said a US representative:

...the fact that the information leading to the raids was provided by local residents is an encouraging sign of the success of our efforts, based on increased presence of coalition forces in local neighborhoods, to build relationships and ties of confidence with Iraqi citizens.

Regarding the violence in Baghdad, an AFP report states

Iraq's spokesman for Fardh al-Qanoon, Brigadier General Qassim Atta al-Mussawi, at a separate press conference listed the successes of the security plan, involving 90,000 Iraqi and US forces.

"A total of 265 civilians and 57 militarymen, including nine officers, have been killed since the plan kicked off on February 14," Mussawi said. This compared with the preceding month when 1,440 people were killed.

He also said that 94 "terrorists" were killed by Iraqi and US forces since the launch of the plan, compared to 19 in the preceding month.

Security forces had arrested "713 terrorists and 1,052 terrorist suspects compared to 169 terrorists before the plan was put into action," Mussawi said.


Danny said...

Nice post Frank. I know that when I read stuff like that, sometimes it makes me want to be there helping again. Then again, if my wife saw me post this, she would slap me in the face. I also wanted to say that I remember trying to get the people to work with us. As long as they got soccer balls, they were happy. The most prominent
thing that came to mind was working in Habbinayah the last few months, supporting the Iraqi troops. And hearing the stories from the marines that worked with them, and how confident they were. I am glad that the confidence, morale, and success is spreading. And I sincerely hope it continues without waiver.

Rich Warnick said...

Frank, you've got to be kidding. The extra US units won't even finish deploying until June, and more are being requested by General Petraeus.

According to the latest quarterly report, the last three months in Iraq were the most violent since 2003. The casualty count for March is proceeding at the same pace as February.

Frank Staheli said...


I made it clear that I wasn't talking about the surge. We need a lot more than 21,500 additional troops. I'm talking about the Petraeus way of doing things. That is what appears to be working.

Rich Warnick said...

Frank, I hadn't caught up on the latest talking points. You're right, "surge" is out and replaced by "Petraeus mission."

Kari said...

Great post Frank. I was just wondering - Do you think now that the citizens in Baghdad are seeing a decrease in violence and a decrease in insurgent numbers they aren't as scared to come forward with information? Where as previously when violence and insurgent numbers were up they didn't bring any information forward because of fear of reprisal?

Frank Staheli said...


Excellent question and excellent insight. I think this is definitely the case, although I'd like to get Richard's opinion on it.

The 'diamond in the rough' from Thomas Ricks' book "Fiasco" was that even though a lot of things have gone badly, there have been some things that have gone excellently. These things we simply need to do more of (and having a lot more troops there than 150,000 would allow us to do even more). Whenever a unit went into an area, got to know the people, showed them they respected them and their language and culture, they received cooperation in the form of information about insurgents, which resulted in greater peace in the area.

Many Iraqis have many reasons not to trust the Americans, but the Americans can win the trust back and be successful. It appears in isolated cases that this is happening now. (Do a search on this blog for "counter-insurgency" to see some more discussion of this.)

Further, polls have been been conducted in Iraq where the overwhelming majority supposedly want America out of Iraq. There are several reasons why results of such a poll would be suspicious, but the main one is that the person taking the poll is probably not sure if that REALLY is a friendly, non-partisan poll-taker on the other end of the phone line.

Rich Warnick said...

Page 20 of the Pentagon's quarterly report on Iraq says "actionable tips" from Iraqis went up starting last October, and now come it at a rate of 2500-3000 a month.

This report cannot be relied on, however, because of all the caveats and the details left out. For example, we are not told how many of these so-called tips turned out to be correct. For all I know, the increase in tips reflects rising sectarian tension as some Iraqis try to con the US military into arresting their rivals.

Because of operational security, it goes without saying the whole story cannot be told in a public report. However, the selective use of facts in these reports smacks of Bush administration propaganda, IMHO.

It's already been documented that the quarterly reports systematically undercount casualties.

Frank Staheli said...

With this I agree. Are the tips simply to get revenge on someone in many cases? Probably.

The Bush admin does itself and America no favors by not reporting the truth and trying to put a happy face on everything.

It will be interesting (and I am hopeful) to see whether more positive results occur similar to the ones I described in this post.

Anonymous said...*

You know it's working when we can destroy a bomb factory!

Frank Staheli said...


I hope that we see a lot more positive occurrences like these. It's too early to tell, but I'm more optimistic than I have been in a long time!