Sunday, March 18, 2007

Countering the insurgency

Dr. Juan Cole has maintained an extremely informative blog on goings-on in the Middle East, with Iraq being the polka dot elephant in the living room. Today, Dr. Cole summarized thoughts on the U.S. counter insurgency (COIN) as put forth by professor Colin Kahl from the University of Minnesota. I've paraphrased below; follow the link to Dr. Cole's site for a complete reading (All emphases added by me).

U.S. COIN efforts can be usefully divided into 4 phases.

Phase 1: Denial. This period lasted from the fall of the regime until April 2004. During this time, DoD civilians and some within the military denied that there was an insurgency or, if there was one, that it was growing in support and lethality.

Phase 2: Learning curve. From the spring of 2004 to the late summer of 2005, the U.S. military woke up to the seriousness of the insurgency. ... [T]he U.S. approach to COIN during this period was still overwhelmingly enemy-centric/search-and-destroy/kill-capture. Only in 2005 does the military appear to really start systematically learning from its mistakes (and some successes), gradually figuring out that the Iraqi population is the center of gravity.

Phase 3: Getting it. By the late summer and early fall of 2005 ... the White House [developed a new approach] designed around the intent to “clear, hold, and build” Iraqi population centers, the ability to effectively implement these changes in much of the country was complicated by a number of factors.

First, beginning in 2004, an effort was made to reduce the American military footprint ... to lessen the perception of occupation thought to be driving the Sunni insurgency while also improving force protection.

Second, insufficient troop levels devoted to the “hold” portion of the administration’s strategy also thwarted implementation.

Phase 4: Doing it. [In] January 2007 ... Bush announced his intention to “surge” 17,500 additional forces to Baghdad (and 4,000 more to Anbar). ... [I]t is vital to remember, the surge is not the strategy -- it is a means to implement a strategy. The strategy is to to provide actual population security, tamp down sectarian violence, and create space for national reconciliation and reconstruction.

[T]he "clear, hold, and build" [is the only remaining] option [for overcoming the insurgency]. However ... this strategic shift may simply be too little, too late.

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