Most of northern Iraq has fallen to Kurd forces (under Coalition direction) and the surrounding oil fields are apparently safe.
Iraqi forces defending the area have been pounded by Coalition airpower, attacked by Kurd fighters in conjunction with U.S. special forces, and defeated — either by death, capture, retreat to Tikrit, or fading into the peoplescape of northern Iraq. Many regular Iraqi Army forces are changing into civilian clothes and walking home.
Will the remnants of the regime be foolish enough to try to reconstitute itself in Tikrit? If so, they should reconsider. Coalition ground forces, including major Kurd elements, will grow in number and capability. It is likely most of the Baath-party leadership and the Hussein cabal will cut and run to Syria.
Coalition forces will now begin their transition from primarily combat missions to combat and stability operations.
There are two particularly appropriate (and short) paragraphs from the Stability Operations chapter of Army Field Manual 3-0 (Operations), that apply in Iraq:
Stability operations are inherently complex and place great demands on small units. Small unit leaders are required to develop interpersonal skills — such as cultural awareness, negotiating techniques, and critical language phrases — while maintaining warfighting skills. They must remain calm and exercise good judgment under considerable pressure. Soldiers and units at every level must be flexible and adaptive. Often, stability operations require leaders with the mental and physical agility to shift from noncombat to combat operations and back again.
Stability operations help restore law and order in unstable areas outside the US and its territories. However, the mere presence of Army forces does not guarantee stability. Offensive and defensive operations may be necessary to defeat enemies that oppose a stability operation…
Stability objectives will include border security, public order and security, provision of civil services such as firefighting and hospitals, establishment of government, arms control, and finding WMD. There will be a tough combination of developmental and coercive operations.
Requirements for stability will vary greatly across the country. In some locations, reestablishment and protection of civil infrastructure might be a main concern. At others, ending the looting may be a major requirement. Provision of medical and food distribution services appear in many locations in Iraq. Straightforward police operations and return of relative peace to neighborhoods will likely be needed as well. In other locations, keeping factions from one another’s throats will be a key mission. Antiterrorism and counterterrorism operations appear to be a long-term issue. Iraqis in many cities appear committed to first emptying then burning down large government buildings, perhaps releasing long pent up hatreds.
Across the urban, ethnic, and political geographies of Iraq, stability operations will include a mix of difficult tasks that will challenge the coalition’s ground forces to control land, populations, and situations in very fluid environments. .
Many tactics, techniques and procedures are needed for such missions. We can expect Coalition forces to have to forcibly separate belligerents in some cases. They could set up and supervise such protected areas as neighborhoods, market districts, or cultural icons. They might set up exclusion zones or controlled movement areas. Curfews will probably cut back on the volume of traffic, but could also increase confrontations.
We could see coalition forces offering medical and dental care, aid distribution, mine clearance, and certainly weapons confiscation. Shows of force, significant patrolling, and checkpoints are techniques already being used.
Both policy and experience are the basis of the rules of interaction directives that will evolve for the complex stability requirements in Iraq. Coalition forces will continue to use and need linguists, counterintelligence teams, and civil affairs capabilities.
While coalition forces are in Iraq to change the regime, they are there to change the regime to chaos. American combat solders are in fact trained to conduct stability operations, but they are still engaged in combat and must protect themselves and “take out the bad guys.” Coalition forces need assistance from the civil affairs experts scheduled for the next phase of the campaign. The Iraqis themselves need to stand up to this task as well. It is their country after all.
— Charles E. Miller is a retired Air Force colonel.