What Have You Done to Provide Security Today?

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 8 months ago

In General David Petraeus: Softly, Softly?, I argued, as I have previously, that the Iraq model for counterinsurgency is backwards.  The customary understanding of Galula’s COIN doctrine has the insurgent attempting to win the population, with the government forces attempting to hold them in submission. The Iraq model has this turned entirely on its head. The insurgents are holding the population in submission while we are attempting to win them, with insurgent terror proving to be more compelling than our so-called “nonkinetic? operations.?

I argued that violence and potential violence perpetrated on the population had a more powerful influence than our attempts to “win the hearts and minds” of the people.  Dead bodies in which a power drill had been used to drill holes in each of the victim’s ribs, still alive at the time, are a strikingly graphic reminder of the gruesome lengths to which the enemy is willing to stoop to keep the population in submission.

David Petraeus is America’s so-called last hope for victory in Iraq.  His approach is remarkable for its focus on the “heart” of the population, substantiated by the theory that this will deny the insurgent safe haven.  A Newsweek cover story in 2004 said: “Virtually everybody” agrees that his command in Mosul “was a textbook case of doing counterinsurgency the right way. When troops went on cordon-and-search operations, they took care to tell each homeowner, ‘Thank you for allowing us to search your home …’ Posters were displayed in the 101st’s barracks, saying, ‘What have you done to win Iraqi hearts and minds today?’”

But has Petraeus been successful in his prior deployment to Iraq?  He certainly has his critics.  Nibras Kazimi writes, “General David Petraeus, whom President Bush has tasked to quell the insurgency, spent the last year and a half updating the U.S. Army and Marine Corps’s field manual for counterinsurgency. There’s plenty of fancy theory there, as well as case studies from Iraq. I don’t know how much of the new manual is informed by General Petraeus’ two notable failures in Iraq: building a brittle edifice of government in Mosul that collapsed at the first challenging puff, and the inadequate training and equipping of the Iraqi army due to corruption and mismanagement.”  He ends his commentary with the following simple words: “kill or capture more of the killers to ensure victory.”

So what about this charge that the Iraqi army has not been properly trained?  A recent report from retired Iraqi officers after observing operations in Baghdad gives us a glimpse into the Iraqi thinking on this subject.

Iraqi troops and police lack the training, efficiency and equipment to control a city like Baghdad, retired former army officers said.

The officers, who refused to reveal their names for security reasons, said they were shocked by the performance of Iraqi troops during operations in Baghdad …

U.S. Marines rely on high-tech and defensive gear – flack jackets, armored vehicles – but they are strangers to the environment and are generally disliked by the population, they said.

Iraqi troops move in open pick-up trucks, most of them without protective jackets and armed with Kalashnikovs.

“With their poor training they become an easy prey to rebels and armed groups,? said an officer.

Another officer said he was appalled at the differences between performance and equipment of the Iraqi troops and U.S. Marines as they mounted together an attack on armed groups in Baghdad.

“Iraqis looked as second class fighters whose job was meant to serve their masters (the Americans) who in their protective gear looked like Martians,? he said.

Iraqi troops have no tanks or armored vehicles. They even lack artillery and air force.

Communication and intelligence coordinating their operations is almost negligible. One factor is the fact that many of the units were formed on purely sectarian grounds.

One officer said the U.S. did not work hard enough to replace the Iraqi army and security apparatus it dismantled shortly after its 2003 invasion.

“We as the retired officers of the former army blame U.S. troops for failing to properly train the new Iraqi forces and police and supply them with the right weapons …

The new Iraqi troops are so dependent on the Americans that they can rarely operate on their own in flashpoint areas, the officers said …

If sectarianism is obliterated in army ranks and the troops are properly trained and equipped, this will translate positively on the ground, they said.

So there is merit to the charge that the Iraqi troops are not ready to take over security of Iraq.  If security proves to be more compelling and important than “hearts and minds,” then a major building block of the strategy is missing from the scene in Iraq.

As quoted in a comment on a recent article from Robert D. Kaplan’s Imperial Grunts, “the most basic human right is not freedom as people in the West conceive of it, but physical security.”  Rather than asking the question “what have you done to win Iraqi hearts and minds today,” perhaps Petraeus should have been asking, “what have you done to provide security today?”

  • http://www.copthetruth.typepad.com Mike@CopTheTruth

    A friend of mine (my former BC) from the Ranger Bn. used to be Petraeus’ CO in the 509th Airborne in Italy. I spoke to him recently and he says that Petraeus is top-notch and the right guy to get the job done. Let’s hope he’s right.


You are currently reading "What Have You Done to Provide Security Today?", entry #457 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Force Projection,Iraq,Small Wars and was published January 29th, 2007 by Herschel Smith.

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