Progress of Allied Forces in Iraq
25 Mar 2006 07:25 GMT
Alaa from Iraq talks about the current strategic situation in his country.
Friday, March 17, 2006
As those who follow this blog know, it is dedicated to ideas and strategic conclusions and not a running commentary on the situation in Iraq. So let me share with you some thoughts and conclusions, which I have come to conceive over time as I observe events and actually live them personally from day to day.
To start with, let us examine the security and military situation. As I have always said, it is “no use crying over spilt milk”. Thus it is not useful and can be demoralizing to dwell on past mistakes. However, wisdom consists to a large extent in learning from one’s errors. And I think many people might agree that much of trouble that we are facing today was the result of the carelessness and slovenliness of the first couple of months after that great liberation day in April of 2003. This point of view is supported even in the book published by Mr. Bremmer, the civil administrator in the C.P.A. era, though he himself must take some responsibility for some of the mistakes. Some of the most elementary precautions that could have been taken in those days would have gone a long way towards establishing law and order then and thenceforth. It was much easier to do things then than it is now. The Iraqi people and the American and allied servicemen and women alike paid the price of errors of judgment of some “higher management” people.
However, it would be very unfair to the allied forces (mainly American) and their leadership, to belittle the tremendous efforts and sacrifices in the course of the past three years, and to underestimate the successes and achievements that were made. For instance, I have noticed that many in the States itself do not really understand the nature of military actions on the ground here. Thus, for example, the effective, sustained and carefully planned series of military operations in the western Euphrates valley of the Anbar province have been quite successful in largely pacifying this most dangerous hotbed of the insurgency, and while admittedly not completely subduing all subversive elements there, nevertheless averted a complete takeover of this large swath of the country by the enemy and creating an extremely dangerous base in which he would have been in complete control with open lines of communications, supply and logistic support from the west ( i.e. Syria and Jordan), while cutting off the country from its western boundaries. The American forces carried out the Anbar campaign mainly with little help from any other party. Some people have expressed exasperation regarding these operations thinking that they were isolated actions against an illusive and mobile enemy, whereas in fact there was a careful plan to drive the enemy on two fronts. The first front was from the east from Falluja pressing the enemy westward. The other front, which soon followed, was starting from the extreme west at the Syrian border at Al Qaim, driving the enemy eastward. The result of this campaign to date is that most terrorists are cornered nowadays in the Ramadi area, which is mid-way between Baghdad and the Western border, with much of the Anbar out of their reach. Another outcome of this campaign was that quite significant tribes of the western region turned against the terrorists, astonishingly led by that fierce “Karabila” tribe which erstwhile used to be considered one of the worst terrorist sympathizers. Nowadays, the “Karabila” together with some other quite powerful tribes of the western “Dulaim” are actively fighting against the terrorists led by the flamboyant and lovable Shaikh “Ussama Al-Jadaan”. This is the so-called “ Tribal Nakhwa forces” (Nakhwa is one of those untranslatable words meaning when one rises up in noble indignation and joins the fight in aid of a just cause). Even allowing for the bombastic and enthusiastic nature of Shaikh Ussama, no one can deny that the Nakhwa forces at least secured a large and strategic area near the important Qaim town on the Syrian border. Furthermore I can state with certainty that most of the people in the Anbar are thoroughly sick and fed up with the terrorists, having tasted Taliban style treatment (or worse) at their hands for such a long time.
Another area where the American forces have done very well is the Mosul northern area. At one time Mosul was almost completely overrun and fallen to the enemy. American forces together with Ministry of Interior forces have done very well and the region now is in much better shape, although again, pockets of terrorism still exist. Had it not been for these efforts, Mosul would have suffered the same fate that we referred to earlier regarding the Anbar province.
As a result of these successes, terrorism was pushed elsewhere in the country, notably the area near Samara in Salahudin governorate north of Baghdad, linking northwards towards the Himrin Mountains, Al Hawijah and Krikuk and of course Dialla province, infesting remote and extremely backward Sunni villages where the inhabitants can easily be intimidated and/or enticed with financial bribes, pandering to their natural bent for thieving and chaos, not to mention indigenous sectarian prejudices. Also the escalation of the frantic effort to precipitate a sectarian civil war by deliberate design and planning such as the blowing of the Al Askary holy shrine in Samara, is a sign of the desperation of the enemy, and not unrelated to consternation at the defection of the Anbar tribes of the Nakhwa movement that have dealt some painful blows against them.
But above all, and most alarmingly, terrorism gravitated towards Baghdad and its surrounding “Sunni Belt” of villages and farms, Mahmoudiya-Iskandariya-Latifiya etc. to the South; Tarmiya, Mshahda, Taji in the North; Nahrawan and the road to Dialla in the East and of course Abu Ghraib and the approaches to the Anbar in the west. These outskirts of Baghdad are the source of the worst sectarian atrocities that we have seen lately and the source of the corpses dumped daily in Baghdad these days.
So the latest military operation near Samara can now be understood in this context. The American and Iraqi military strategy seems to be to deal with the rebellious regions in turn trying to clean up the areas gradually. While we admit that Baghdad cannot be safeguarded without controlling the rest of the country this way, it is nevertheless very dangerous not to sufficiently protect the capital simultaneously with these efforts. This brings me back to my thesis, which I have expounded since a long time, and which I called “Green Zone Baghdad”, which means creating safe and stable conditions inside the capital. This will be the subject of the next post “Inshallah”, which I hope will not be another of these vain promises, which unfortunately I have made so often. I beg my friends’ indulgence and pardon for my laziness.
But before I conclude this post I don’t want my friends to think that I am disregarding the political side of the question, which is certainly of equal if not greater importance. But that aspect has to be dealt with separately. It is just that I want to finish what I have to say from the purely tactical military point of view first; because I think that in the short term it is critical to do the right thing militarily.
Finally I would like to say to all our friends in the West and America in particular, this: have no fear; the battle is far from being lost. The land of Sumeria, Akad, Babylon, Ur, Nimrod and Ashur will never die. The land where the Old Testament was written and the Aramaic of Jesus Christ was spoken cannot become extinct. The Capital of Harun Al-Rashid and the Arabian nights cannot die. Land of Abraham and the prophets, Mesopotamia is indestructible. Seven thousand years of turbulent history attest to this. Only this land will remain tortured and cannot rest or calm down until it achieves greatness again. This is a germ that has been genetic in this mystic land from the beginning of history. This same history will credit the U.S.A. in years to come to have been the one to arouse this long dormant genie.
* cf. "Time Machine" and my post some time ago.