I cannot often claim to have been prescient about anything, so forgive me for advertising my own stuff a little.
Last May, after returning from Baghdad, I posted a bullet-point list of gloomy thoughts about the country’s immediate future. I was wide off the mark on one issue — predicting that the transition of security duties from U.S. troops to the ISF would be “much slower than news reports would let you believe” — but, alas, on target on two others.
Here’s what I wrote about the security forces:
Neither the Iraqi public nor the American officers I spoke to, nor the police themselves, believe the NP will be able to stop the wave of violence everyone seems to agree is imminent once there are no more Americans on the streets. The NP simply doesn’t have the manpower or training or tenacity to man their checkpoints day in and day out regardless of how badly they get hit. They are easily demoralised and lose focus when bombs start going off. After having seen how they live, and knowing how little they get paid, I can’t really blame them. Still, the sight of a fearful Iraqi police officer being literally led by an American platoon on a short presence patrol through his own neighbourhood isn’t exactly encouraging.
And about the removal of blast walls from Baghdad’s thoroughfares:
Here’s another stupid move: facing pressure from the local business community, the Maliki government has started to remove the life-saving but commerce-hindering T-walls in Baghdad’s central districts, supposedly replacing them with smaller Jersey barriers. Again, this is politics trumping security in the worst possible way. Talk to any American field officer and he will tell you it is premature and potentially disastrous, as the Iraqis haven’t had time to gauge the situation properly.
And about the logic behind the violence:
I find it hard to agree with Nir Rosen, who seems to think the recent mass-casualty bombings in Baghdad are basically pointless. They aren’t; their point is to take away from Maliki the only thing he has going for him in the next election — the credit for ending the violence.
Last week’s truck bombs, of course, not only laid waste to whole blocks in central Baghdad, they finally shattered the illusion that all was quiet on the Western front. Here’s how Jane Arraf, the Christian Science Monitor correspondent in Baghdad, describes the situation in a CFR interview:
On the security level, it has cast light on what really, truly does appear to be systemic failure of the Iraqi security apparatus. We’re talking about the ability of whoever was behind this to put together two huge truck bombs–these were four-ton trucks. The one that hit the foreign ministry was packed with two tons of explosives and they were allowed to drive through the streets on roads where you’re not supposed to drive any trucks in daylight hours. That says something about what the government believes is negligence, if not collaboration, by some of the security forces.
Those bombings indicated to a lot of people that we have to stop pretending that things are fine and that applies to the U.S. commanders as well. One Iraqi senior official told me literally that they can’t pretend that everything’s fine as they engage in a responsible drawdown. Because in some cases, Iraqi security cannot handle it. They don’t have the intelligence capability. They don’t have the technology to detect explosives.
They don’t have a lot of the more sophisticated skills and the technological assets they actually would need to be able to fight this insurgency. They certainly have what it takes in terms of cultural knowledge, obviously, but this is still an insurgency. When you can build two-ton truck bombs in the middle of Baghdad, which is, according the interior ministry, where it happened, and then drive them through the streets, there’s got to be something wrong there.
These were the worst attacks in more than a year and half, but it’s really the repercussions that will have as major an impact as the bombings themselves.
Indeed. And it will only get worse.
[h/t Captain’s Journal.]