Archive for the ‘ISF’ Category

Here’s a piece of bad news masquerading as good news:

Iraqi security forces met little resistance Thursday on Day 1 of the government’s crackdown in the southern city of Amarah as they sought to disarm gunmen loyal to the militant Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al Sadr.

Iraqi defense officials said there were no casualties or gun battles as military and national police units easily spread through northern Amarah, a mostly Shiite oil and agricultural city that borders Iran and for decades has served as a smuggling hub.

The thing is, the fact that Maliki’s army has faced no serious opposition in its operations in Mosul and Amara doesn’t mean that no opposition exists. It means Sunni insurgents, foreign terrorists and Sadr’s fighters have just decided to wait for another day. And it means we have yet to see how the Iraqi Army will perform in real combat, not these simulated exercises.

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The role of U.S. troops in the crackdown in Amara will be “consultative”, according to General Abdul-Kareem Khalaf of MoI.

Sure — I bet the Apaches are already patrolling the skies of Maysan, readying their Hellfires for “consultation”…

Okay, sorry. I mean no disrespect, it’s just that all the glowing reports of ISF success have left me a little cynical. From what I saw in Iraq a couple of months ago, it’s obvious that if you remove the Americans from the equation, the Iraqis won’t stand a chance. Sooner or later they will; but until then I’d rather not have any more of the “Iraq is fixing itself” narrative, thank you very much.

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It seems I’m no longer alone with my rants against the “Iraqis are taking the lead” meme now in vogue in the Western media. Anthony Cordesman and Adam Mausner of CSIS have just issued a devastating analysis on Iraqi force development, basically calling the glowing reports on the Iraqi Army’s performance what they are — bullshit.

MNF-I and the GOI continue to provide misleading and optimistic public reporting and metrics on ISF performance. The ISF is making progress in many areas, but MNF-I and GOI reporting and metrics sharply understate the real-world timelines and efforts needed to deal with problems and delays in shaping credible force plans, getting proper training facilities and throughput, embedding competent advisors, providing effective equipment, getting competent Iraqi leaders and force retention, and dealing with ethnic and sectarian issues. Official reporting on the MOI and the IP in particular is extremely misleading.

These problems have created false expectations and demands within the US Congress, as well as unrealistic budgets and plans that require progress that cannot be achieved for several years to come.


To date, the Department of Defense reporting on the progress in Iraqi forces development has been fundamentally misleading and lacking in integrity, and has done a major disservice in leading the Congress and others to have unrealistic expectations of what can be accomplished within a given timeframe.

On Basra:

The bad news was the ISF showed only limited capability to plan and execute a major operation on its own, suffered from serious desertions and failures, had to turn to the US and UK for emergency support, and needed an Iranian-brokered compromise to deal with Sadr. The good news is that the ISF eventually was able to field a large number of troops, did not face sustained resistance from elements of the JAM or other forces, and has been able to occupy and control the city since the cease fire.

In Sadr City, too, the only good news had nothing to do with the IA’s offensive capability:

Only US forces were ready to deal with the threat posed by the Mahdi Army (JAM). The government again had to turn to the Coalition for military support and to Iran for help in brokering a ceasefire deal with Sadr. Once again, however, the ISF was able to successfully occupy Sadr City once a ceasefire was agreed to.

On the National Police:

This ongoing program has clearly had some positive outcomes, and has reduced the previous Shi‘ite dominance of the force and resulted in the firing of a huge number of the NP‘s senior commanders. Many elements still, however, present problems, and it remains to be seen whether the reform program can make the NP a truly non-sectarian force.

On the Sons of Iraq:

While MNSTC-I believes that 20-25% of the Sons of Iraq will be absorbed into the ISFii, progress has been slow in this area. What will become of the other 75-80% of these heavily armed men, accustomed to their relatively high salaries, is also a major concern. Unless jobs and economic opportunities are found for the entire force, and Sunnis and mixed tribal groups come to trust in government help and funding, the gains this force has made will be lost and many elements could become hostile to the central government.

And so on.

I think their analysis on Mosul is too optimistic, and I hate the way they use the term “al-Qaeda”, but all in all, this is a fantastic report.

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After the widely advertised government “crackdown” in Mosul, things are returning to normal. The lesson, in caps: YOU DO NOT ELIMINATE AN INSURGENCY BY MASS DETENTIONS.

(Note to the Baghdad press corps: Please pull your head out of your butt and go report. No more blindly parroting the Maliki “al-Qaeda is on the run” meme, okay?)

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Déjà vu Mosul

Increasing insurgent violence? “Final showdowns” that fizzle out? Think you’ve heard it all before? That’s because, well, you have.

“Insurgent violence mounting in the north” — The San Francisco Chronicle, November 12, 2004

“In Mosul, a Battle ‘Beyond Ruthless” — The Washington Post, April 13, 2005

“Mosul slips out of control as the bombers move in” — The Independent, March 31, 2006

“Pushed Out of Baghdad, Insurgents Move North” — The New York Times, December 6, 2007

Of course, you can just as easily find the annual “things are looking up” stories that inevitably follow the doom and gloom.

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So far, it seems only Juan Cole and this blog have been openly sceptical about the Iraqi government operations in Mosul. But now we have a piece by Fadhil Ali at Jamestown basically saying the same thing:

In fact, the major leaders of the insurgent groups appear to have left Mosul two months before the operation […]. The repeated early announcements of the operations offered a chance for the insurgents to take precautions and move out of the region. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is known for avoiding major combat confrontations—its tactics rely mainly on fighting with small groups only. It is clear that the Iraqi government could not achieve a decisive victory with two quick military operations against al-Qaeda in Ninawa province.

I don’t want to say I told you so. But I told you so.

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Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who is personally supervising the war effort in Mosul, today offered amnesty and cash to insurgents willing to put down their RPGs and repent.

Now, that’s taking ‘COIN’ a little too literally…

Seriously, I suspect the reason for the generosity is that nothing much has come out of the two military operations (called Lion’s Roar and Mother of Two Springs, believe it or not) the government has launched in the past few days.

According to reports (via Informed Comment), they have so far managed to arrest some 900 people and piss off local Sunni bigwigs who say the operations have targeted ex-Baathists and military officers instead of “al-Qaeda”.

I know getting to Mosul can be a bitch (I’ve been stuck in Speicher, too), but can somebody please hitch a ride up there and do some good old-fashioned reporting, so we don’t have to rely on this bullshit.

In case you’re interested, my take on Mosul is here.

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