10 years ago
The fact that the al Anbar tribes have made an agreement to align themselves with the government is a positive sign, but it will be a protracted period of time before these troops can be relied upon to conduct operations in a manner equivalent to the U.S. troops.
I have discussed the use of proxy fighters to accomplish mission objectives, as well as the pushback that the U.S. is getting from some of the al Anbar tribes to the pressure to take on al Qaeda and the Mujahideen themselves. Concerning the al Anbar tribes and their pact to eject al Qaeda, the Strategy Page has this:
September 22, 2006: Coalition forces in Iraq have suddenly received the manpower equivalent of three light infantry divisions. They did not suffer any repercussions in domestic politics as a result, and now have a huge edge over al-Qaeda in al-Anbar province. How did this happen? Tribal leaders in the largely Sunni province on the Syrian border got together and signed an agreement to raise a tribal force of 30,000 fighters to take on foreign fighters and terrorists.
These leaders have thrown in with the central government in Baghdad. This is a decisive blow to al Qaeda, which has been desperately trying to fight off an Iraqi government that is getting stronger by the week. Not only are the 30,000 fighters going to provide more manpower, but these tribal fighters know the province much better than American troops – or the foreign fighters fighting for al Qaeda. Also, this represents just over 80 percent of the tribes in al-Anbar province now backing the government.
The commentary goes on to cover some of the real benefits of these additional resources, such as indepth knowledge of the terrain (leading to an understanding of the best ambush sites that might be used by al Qaeda). And while we can take this pact to be a victory for coalition forces, this assessment by the Strategy Page is without question overly optimistic.
It is certainly not the case that the coalition “suddenly received the manpower equivalent of three light infantry divisions,” even if you consider this manpower to be support troops rather than infantry or police.
I talked with an Army mother several days ago who has three boys under arms (one in Afghanistan, two in Iraq), and the perspective conveyed by her two sons in Iraq is one of a vast cultural difference between the U.S. forces and the Iraqis. Of course there is, and we all know this, but it gets lost unless it is kept in the forefront of our thinking.
Regarding the missions, raids and other maneuvers that the U.S. troops go on along with the Iraqi troops, it is a frequent experience for the U.S. to go on a mission, work alongside the Iraqis, assess the results, go on another mission alongside the Iraqis, assess the results, etc., etc., until the assessment concludes that the Iraqis are ready to conduct the operations alone. The Iraqis attempt to conduct the operation alone, and the force evaporates. They lack self-confidence, have poor leadership, and simply have not been raised from childhood the same way U.S. boys were raised.
In the future I will comment more on this difference, focusing on the way American boys are raised. But for now suffice it to say that al Anbar will lack proper government and control for some time. The coalition didn’t gain three divisions. They gained some recruits — really how many remains to be seen — who can work alongside the U.S. troops until they gain the confidence to do it themselves. This will be a long process, and it may be longer if we rely too heavily on these proxy fighters.