Commitment to Iraq and Recommitment to Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 3 months ago

In Standing up the Iraqi Army I discussed the fact that Iraq would probably be a protectorate of the U.S. for a decade.  In Kurds Desire Long Term U.S. Presence, I followed this up with a discussion of the likely ‘look and feel’ of long term U.S. commitment.  Regardless of what formal agreements the Iraqi government enters into with the U.S., and what the U.N. does or doesn’t authorize the U.S. to do or for how long, the Kurds desire the long term U.S. presence and are willing to negotiate a separate agreement or arrangement with the U.S.  The administration is making a way for the Iraqis to replace the U.N. mandate with new doctrine for the protection of Iraq (and the Kurds will no doubt be at the front of the line to formulate such an agreement within the context of federalism).

In January, the U.S. will also invite the Iraqis to negotiate a new “strategic partnership agreement” to replace the existing United Nations mandate for U.S. troops, starting in 2009. David Satterfield, Rice’s special coordinator for Iraq, will ask Baghdad to appoint a negotiating team that represents all the country’s factions and ministries. This new agreement will be sensitive for both sides, since it will cover everything from imprisonment of Iraqi detainees to future U.S. basing rights to Special Forces operations against al-Qaida terrorists. Explains a senior Bush administration official: “There will be new rules of the game. There have to be. It cannot be business as usual.”

In spite of the losses that al Qaeda has suffered of late, Petraeus has made it clear that there are ongoing operations against them and their “rat lines.”  Further, while Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condi Rice have locked horns on the role of Iran in Iraq (with Rice asserting that Iran is exercising a restraining role in Iraq while Gates is less sanguine), there is no question that any perceived stand-down by Iran is tactical rather than a change in policy or a desire to see stable democracy in Iraq.  Iran has its forces deployed en mass throughout Iraq.

The Qods Force has some 40,000 men in Iraq. In January 2007, in a press conference in London, the Iranian Resistance revealed a detailed list of 32,000 on mullahs’ payroll with their account numbers in Iranian banks and their ranks in the IRGC’s military hierarchy.

In addition, to pursue its goal in Iraq, the Qods Force has established dozens of terrorist and intelligence networks throughout the country.

Over the past few years, millions of books, pamphlets, CDs, posters and ideological banners promoting the teachings of the mullahs’ supreme leader Ali Khamenei have been pouring into Iraq by the agents of the force. 

To follow the guidelines from Tehran, the Qods Force has bought or rented more than three thousand buildings, apartments, farms, hotels, shops and other properties in Iraq. These premises have been used as safe houses, hide outs for the force’s commanders and intelligence agents of the Qods Force and rendezvous points for members of terrorist squads.

The real state purchases have been mostly made in the three Shiite strong holds of Najaf, Karbala and Basrah.  The Iranian regime’s tactics have been widly scrutinized by the media in the country. 

Qods Force front entities for fulfilling its task in Iraq

To manage its day-to-day business in the country, the force has been using front organizations. Various front organizations have made it easy for IRGC and Qods Force to conduct their covert and illegal activities; employing such networks have provided the necessary cover for the Iranian regime to keep a low profile while having a hand in most of terrorist operations in Iraq. At the same time, it is difficult for authorities to blow the covers and get the terrorists out since they are well mixed with the ordinary citizens.  

By setting up a number of charitable organizations, mostly in Shiite dominated parts of the country, the Qods Force is expanding its covert intelligence and terrorist networks.

Basra is still in the throes of sectarian strife and criminal gang warfare, and the Basra police chief has recently survived his seventh assassination attempt.  So there is much work left to be done in Iraq.  But in previous articles we have also pointed out that the Afghanistan campaign is languishing, necessitating an overall review of the campaign at the highest levels of the Pentagon.  We have advocated that the Marines be deployed to Afghanistan, and while being called a huge issue for the Marines, it appears that the Anbar Province will be home for the Marines for the foreseeable future.

In October, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway raised the idea of transferring his forces to Afghanistan to take the lead role in fighting the Taliban, leaving the U.S. Army with Iraq.

Conway argued, and Camp Pendleton Marines subsequently interviewed agreed, that Marines are better suited and equipped to serve as warfighters rather than civil affairs peacekeepers.

Afghanistan is considered a more dynamic battleground, where Marine patrols may be more effective than the work they are now performing in Iraq.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates later shot down the proposal, but the issue that Conway raised is still being debated in the Pentagon and by military strategists.

In mid-December, Conway again spoke of going to Afghanistan and why he believes that makes sense for the 189,000 active-duty Marines.

“(When) it comes time for Marine units to start leaving the country … should we bring them home or should we start looking to put them where there is still an active fight, in this case Afghanistan? And we were prepared to do that. That’s why young Americans join the Marine Corps — to go fight for their country.”

Bing West, a former Marine officer, senior government official and member of the Council on Foreign Relations who maintains close ties with the service’s leadership, said the Afghanistan vs. Iraq debate will continue. The council is a nonpartisan group dedicated to researching and analyzing global trends.

“For the Marine Corps, the Afghanistan issue dwarfs anything else,” West said in a recent interview. “It makes sense, but I don’t expect it will be resolved until there is a new secretary of defense.

“It will depend on where they want to take the overall force,” he said.

The lighter-equipped and less-vehicle-dependent Marine Corps is better suited for Afghanistan than is the Army, West said.

“The Marines are more reliant on dismounted forces, and that’s what’s necessary in Afghanistan,” he said.

We have also recommended seeing Afghanistan as the primary front for the counterinsurgency campaign in Pakistan.  The British have attempted to negotiate with the Taliban, and for this malfeasance have had two MI6 agents expelled from Afghanistan.  But with the need for more forces, if the Marines will not be deployed to Afghanistan, then what is the strategy for winning the campaign?  Further, how will we proceed in our approach to a nuclear armed Pakistan?  Gates has proffered the idea of an additional 7500 troops in Afghanistan (an increase that is likely to be too little), while the plan for Pakistan is breathtaking in its small-mindedness.

President Bush’s senior national security advisers are debating whether to expand the authority of the Central Intelligence Agency and the military to conduct far more aggressive covert operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

The debate is a response to intelligence reports that Al Qaeda and the Taliban are intensifying efforts there to destabilize the Pakistani government, several senior administration officials said.

Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a number of President Bush’s top national security advisers met Friday at the White House to discuss the proposal, which is part of a broad reassessment of American strategy after the assassination 10 days ago of the Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. There was also talk of how to handle the period from now to the Feb. 18 elections, and the aftermath of those elections.

Several of the participants in the meeting argued that the threat to the government of President Pervez Musharraf was now so grave that both Mr. Musharraf and Pakistan’s new military leadership were likely to give the United States more latitude, officials said. But no decisions were made, said the officials, who declined to speak for attribution because of the highly delicate nature of the discussions.

Many of the specific options under discussion are unclear and highly classified. Officials said that the options would probably involve the C.I.A. working with the military’s Special Operations forces.

The Bush administration has not formally presented any new proposals to Mr. Musharraf, who gave up his military role last month, or to his successor as the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who the White House thinks will be more sympathetic to the American position than Mr. Musharraf. Early in his career, General Kayani was an aide to Ms. Bhutto while she was prime minister and later led the Pakistani intelligence service.

But at the White House and the Pentagon, officials see an opportunity in the changing power structure for the Americans to advocate for the expanded authority in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed country. “After years of focusing on Afghanistan, we think the extremists now see a chance for the big prize — creating chaos in Pakistan itself,” one senior official said.

The new options for expanded covert operations include loosening restrictions on the C.I.A. to strike selected targets in Pakistan, in some cases using intelligence provided by Pakistani sources, officials said. Most counterterrorism operations in Pakistan have been conducted by the C.I.A.; in Afghanistan, where military operations are under way, including some with NATO forces, the military can take the lead.

The legal status would not change if the administration decided to act more aggressively. However, if the C.I.A. were given broader authority, it could call for help from the military or deputize some forces of the Special Operations Command to act under the authority of the agency.

If addressing the issue of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Waziristan was merely an issue of removing some high value targets like a federal prosecutor targeting leaders of organized crime to shut down the organization, then this strategy might be compelling.  But the very nature of this region of the world requires counterinsurgency efforts predicated upon strength, and time spent in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan going after individuals will likely lead to the strengthening of the enemy rather than their diminution.  The campaign in Afghanistan cannot be won by special forces operators, road construction and money.  Money and roads will be co-opted by the Taliban for their own purposes if they are left in power.

In the end, there is no replacement for force projection.  Our commitment to Iraq cannot waiver, not even in the long term, but a reduction in force presence there must also be accompanied by a rapid increase at the front of the counterinsurgency campaign in Pakistan, i.e., Afghanistan, as soon as possible.  A re-evaluation of global commitments such as troops presence in Germany and South Korea might also yield additional resources for CENTCOM.  Either way, time is of the essence in the Middle East.

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  • Brian H

    Well, HS, you appear to have hit a few out of the park on this one. Waffle-gabbing on the Afgan-Paki-Tali-Qods issue is playing with fire in a gunpowder factory.

    The problem with lotsa troops in A-stan is access and logistics, of course. There’s no friendly Kuwaiti port to funnel men and materiel through. It’s a pretty heavy job for the decaying heavy-lift airfarce. Maybe they could lease some big Russian planes? Not.


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This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,al Qaeda,Featured,Iraq and was published January 7th, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

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