10 years, 5 months ago
In a stark admission of the casualty rate for al Qaeda in Iraq, al Masri has divulged enemy intelligence to the coalition:
CAIRO, Egypt — The new leader of al-Qaida in Iraq said in an audio message posted on a Web site Thursday that more than 4,000 foreign insurgent fighters have been killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. It was believed to be the first major statement from insurgents in Iraq about their losses.
“The blood has been spilled in Iraq of more than 4,000 foreigners who came to fight,” said the man, who identified himself as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir – also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri – the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq. The voice could not be independently identified.
The good news is that Iraq, while not being touted as such, is important to the GWOT because, if nothing else, it has become a place where literally thousands of terrorists can be killed. The notion that this is a bad thing is a political talking point, but militarily, is nonsensical if we see the GWOT as being a larger, regional, and protracted campaign that must be won on soil other than America.
Of course, there is bad news, and the bad news is sobering. In my post Afghanistan, Talibanistan, Waziristan and Kill Ratios, I conservatively calculated a kill ratio in recent Afghanistan action of 50:1. Considering U.S. mortalities of 3022 as I write this post, and using a value of 4000 al Qaeda in Iraq, the Iraqi situation is much worse. I calculate a kill ratio of 1.324.
A kill ratio is not simply a clinical number. These are the sons of America, and it behooves us to understand the difference between Afghan fighting and the war in Iraq.
While it is easy to second-guess each strategic decision and tactical blunder that has been made, several things can be pointed out that might have contributed to this stark difference. While there is a resurgence of the Taliban in Waziristan, at least initially, the enemy was routed and driven out of Afghanistan. Conventional operations did not cease until the territory was relatively secure. The enemy, even now, is being fought primarily on terrain other than urban, and in Iraq, the prevalence of MOUT (Military Operations on Urban Terrain) is noteworthy.
As I have pointed out in previous posts, bypassing large urban centers on our drive to Baghdad put a quick end to conventional operations and a start to counterinsurgency operations, but this cessation was likely premature. Fallujah was taken with relatively few casualties compared to the continually increasing casualty count in the al Anbar Province. We have left the enemy in Ramadi, Haditha, al Haqlaniyah, Habaniyah, and other highly urbanized parts of al Anbar, and consistently use COIN tactics to effect enemy casualties, but this leads also to a high casualty rate for U.S. troops.
The lesson is simple. When a strategy of COIN is intended and employed in large urban areas where large numbers of the enemy have been intentionally left to operate, the kill ratio does not even come close to comparing with conventional operations.
This should cause us to think long and hard in the future about the cessation of conventional operations and the invocation of counterinsurgency operations.