9 years, 8 months ago
The insurgency in the Anbar Province, while being called “al Qaeda” in hundreds of press releases, has had a significant part indigenous Sunni fighters. Before pacification of Anbar could occur, the following two things were necessary: (a) robust kinetic operations to rout al Qaeda and Ansar al Sunna, and (b) settling with erstwhile indigenous insurgents, formerly enemies of U.S. forces, and forthwith allies in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Sources from Anbar are cited specifying the ‘breakdown’ of the insurgency; the counterinsurgency ‘tour de force’ involved in the pacification of Anbar is discussed, and Shi’a refusal to reconcile is discussed as the largest remaining hurdle to ending OIF.
At the Small Wars Journal blog, Malcolm Nance has a provocative article entitled Al Qaeda in Iraq – Heros, Boogeymen or Puppets? Nance’s article has been highly criticized as has a recent opinion piece at the New York Times. These articles are part of a “renewed push by the antiwar crowd to discredit the idea that the war in Iraq has any real connection to the war on terror,” it has been said.
At TCJ we understand The Long War, but believe that motive cannot be ascribed to these articles based on our reading of the content. The schema presented in them is either right or wrong (or perhaps wrong but containing nuggets of truth), and it is important to ascertain who the enemy is and determine the appropriate strategy based on identification of the enemy. High strung reactions to probing questions and alternative viewpoints do not significantly add to our understanding, and are thus not very helpful.
We agree with much the core of Nance’s assessment of the insurgency (with qualifications and caveats, and with insurgency differentiated from the terrorists, an important distinction that will be discussed later), while holding that the solution he proffers is a false dilemma. The entire article is worth reading, but the core of his analysis is contained in these few paragraphs.
It is well documented that the Sunni insurgency is composed of three wings of insurgents. It is composed of the nationalist Former Regime Loyalists (FRLs) and their former military elements (FREs). This force may be upwards to 29,000 active combatants carrying out over 100 unconventional attacks per day using improvised explosive devices, rockets and automatic weapons ambushes. The FRL-originated Jaysh al-Mujahideen is composed of former Saddam Fedayeen, Special Republican Guard intelligence officers, former-Ba’athists, Sunni volunteers and their families. The second wing is the nationalist Iraqi Religious Extremists (IREs). These are forces including the Islamic Army of Iraq, Ansar al-Sunnah and other smaller groups, which may total approximately 5,000 fighters, sprinkled throughout western, central and northern Iraq. On occasion come into the conversation when one of their attacks is particularly daring or when the coalition claims it is negotiating their departure from the battlefront. Inevitably these “lesser