The Corner

Excellent Fred Kagan piece…

…in the new Weekly Standard. Here he is on why the Baghdad security plan failed: 

Operation Together Forward, the recent joint Iraqi-American operation to pacify the capital, failed for a number of reasons. First, for lack of resources, it proceeded too slowly from neighborhood to neighborhood. Second, again because of resource constraints, there were not enough American troops left behind in neighborhoods that had been cleared–with the result that insurgents slipped rapidly back into those areas and destabilized them again. The price for conducting the operation was high–forces had to be drawn from al Anbar province, the hotbed of the Sunni Arab insurgency, and the situation there has been deteriorating as a result.

The lessons of the U.S. military program in Iraq are reasonably clear by now. American forces, working with Iraqis, can clear areas dominated by terrorists and insurgents. The efforts to do so lead initially to an upsurge in violence as the insurgents resist, but then to greater calm. In places like Tal Afar, Al Qaim, and other small towns along the Upper Euphrates River valley, Sadr City in 2004, and even Falluja (in the second battle in 2004), clearing operations have succeeded. In many of these cases, however, the U.S. command left inadequate American forces behind to help the Iraqi troops hold the area, with the result that insurgents gradually infiltrated and began to destabilize these regions once again. The lack of any coherent plan to move from one cleared area to another, moreover, often meant that stabilized towns were islands in a tumultuous sea.

Here’s his proposal for one that could work:

Baghdad can still be pacified, but it will require a change of approach and more troops–probably on the order of 50,000, most of them deployed to the capital. The aim would be to clear and hold the Sunni Arab neighborhoods, in the first instance, both to prevent violence within them and to protect them from attacks from their Shiite neighbors. After each operation, we would need to leave behind significant numbers of U.S. troops to preserve the gains, along with such Iraqis as are available. The population to be thus pacified is about 4 million people (Sadr City, the Shiite area of about 2.5 million people in northeastern Baghdad, would need to be treated late in the process and in a different way). Historical norms from operations in this war and in previous peacekeeping operations suggest that forces of between 40,000 and 80,000 (Americans and Iraqis) or so would be needed to conduct these operations successfully. Such numbers are by no means unattainable with the deployment of additional U.S. forces to Iraq and the concentration of American and Iraqi forces within the country.

Assuming that such a procedure could get the violence in the Sunni areas of the capital to reasonable levels, it would then be possible to expand the operation to areas such as Ramadi, Balad, Baquba, and elsewhere along the upper Tigris, Euphrates, and Diyala river valleys. Putting a lid on the Sunni Arab insurgency would also reestablish American leverage with the Shiite leadership. The Sunni insurgency has been the primary justification advanced for the rise in Shiite militias. It should be clear by now that the Shiite leadership will not heed our calls for disbanding these militias until the Sunni insurgency is better under control.


The Latest