"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

New York

How to smooth the transition in Iraq

Written by John Nagl and Adam Scher for the Christian Sciency Monitor.

Mahmoudiya, a town south of Baghdad, was part of the area long known as the "Triangle of Death" because of the extraordinary number of Sunni insurgent attacks against coalition forces and Iraqi civilians it suffered – often half a dozen daily in 2006. Today, with violence down to only a few ineffective attacks in any given week, it has earned the moniker "Triangle of Love."

The progress there is due in part to the new US strategy. It involved living among the local population to break the hold of the insurgents and now focuses more on partnering and empowering local Iraqi forces than depending on US troops to target and capture enemies.

This switch in Mahmoudiya has spurred economic growth in the area and sheds light on how to manage a drawdown of US forces without sacrificing the hard-won security gains of the past 18 months.

It's clear that the ultimate success of our counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq requires not just a reduction in all types of enemy activity, but also an increase in the capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces and the local governing councils.

This is a great, concise article about our way ahead in Iraq.

While I agree with Mr. Nagl for the most part, the part not talked about is the involvement of Iran in Iraqi internal affairs. It is this involvement that keeps a larger American presence in Iraq now than what would otherwise be needed.

For a full read, click here.

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The Rejected

From Paul McLeary writing for the Columbia Journalism Review.

This month marks the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. For many of the journalists who have covered it, it has been the story of their lifetime, but we’ve nevertheless seen coverage of the war slip off the front pages over the last few months. While there are still plenty of reporters risking their lives doing great work in Iraq, much of the political, social, and economic complexity of today’s war seems to be getting lost in the election-year crush, even as the war continues to be a major issue in the campaign. This series is CJR’s attempt to add a little bit of context to the whole, while digging into stories that don’t always make it into our morning newspapers.

Mr. McLeary writes of his embed with Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion, 21st Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, part of the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. In this article, he writes of Captain Glenn Helberg'as meeting with sheik Munder. During the meeating, the power went out. Mr. McLeary explains.

Power failures are so common that the sheik just kept talking; mostly about the dark days just a few months ago when al Qaeda ran the area, of the family members killed, how his sons had to drop out of school. He joked that he was thinking of renaming his tribe “The Rejected,” since that’s what al Qaeda used to call Shia.

This article is very interesting as it writes about the "strategic corporal", the "three-block war", and cultivating relationships with Iraqis which are all tenets of counterinsrugency doctrine. It is a first in a series of planned articles about how all these tenets are affecting the war in Iraq, where we are in our counterinsurgency fight, and where we and the Iraqi government have to go.

For a full read, click here.

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Operation Raider Harvest holding phase begins (Diyala)

From MNF-I.

Raider Harvest, an operation designed to clear al-Qaeda in Iraq from the northern Diyala River Valley, and keep them out, will soon switch into the holding phase as part of Operation Phantom Phoenix.

During the clearing phase, which began Jan. 8 and is currently ongoing, Coalition Forces killed four enemy fighters, wounded another four and detained 24 individuals.

In addition, CF also discovered and cleared 13 improvised explosive devices, 10 vehicleborn IEDs, four house-born IEDs and 15 weapon caches.

The northern DRV area, know as the ‘bread basket,’ was a traditional safe haven for AQI in Diyala province. Raider Harvest is not only clearing the enemy from this area, but also ensuring that they are unable to return.

“Although decisive, the combat operations will likely not have as great of an effect as the next phases,” said Lt. Col. James Brown, executive officer of 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, the unit conducting Raider Harvest.

“The big part of it is that now the area will be tied to Muqdadiyah, its closest and largest urban center, and Muqdadiyah will be tied to the province, so the chain of communication between local villages and the Iraqi government will be established. That chain was not there before, so the local people were ripe for AQI to fill that need for them. Now that the link has been established, the government will be able to provide what the people need, which will end AQI’s foothold in the area,” Brown said.

“As we transition into the next phase, you will essentially see a planting of the Iraqi flag in the northern DRV,” Brown continued. “You will start to see Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police, which up until this point, had not patrolled in this area, and here shortly, you will see the linkage between the provincial leaders and the local leaders.”

One aspect of the next phases of the operation is the building of at least one Joint Combat Outpost in the area. (emphasis added)

This article is signifcant in that it lays out prcisely why Coalition forces are succeeding in defeating Al Qaeda in Iraq now during The Surge, which not only provided an addional 30,000 troops on the ground, but also completely changed the way we fought the war.

In the march up to Baghdad, we avoided cities. However, once Baghdad was secured, we hunkered down in the cities or fought our way into cities (think Fallujah) and then hunkered down in them while leaving the countryside open for Al Qaeda in Iraq to use as a base of operations. Finally, there were many areas which Coalition Forces could not go either by higher orders or because we did not have the strength to fight our way into that area.

Now, we are not only moving into each and every area, but we are linking them to their major towns. We are clearing Muqdadiyah and subsequently the "Bread Basket" area which supports the town and which the town supports. Finally, we are ensuring that towns like Muqdadiyah are supported by neighboring towns and finally by the central government. We do this by building or occupying Joint Security Stations (JSS) or joint combat outposts as expressed in this article.

JSS's are important because they are occupied by US Forces, Iraqi Army Forces and local Police Forces to ensure unity of effort and unity of command. Local police, who interact with the population routinely, are able to provide intelligence to Iraqi Army forces who then pass it to American Forces. If in the capability of Local Police, they take care of the matter, if not, it moves up to Iraqi Army Forces. If beyond their capability, US Forces are used.

JSS's are also important due to the fact that they establish a continual security presence in the area. Over time, civilians gain courage due to the continual presence of security forces and begin to turn on enemy forces, providing intelligence which leads to further clearing and holding operations and subsequently the establishment of another JSS.

Finally, JSS's are linked so that if an enemy presence in one area is too great, then forces can be combined to kill or detain enemy forces through direction of the central government.

What makes JSS's so successful now is the fact that Iraqi Forces now have the capacity (numbers and expertise) to take the fight to Al Qaeda in Iraq. So, when US Surge Forces start to decrease, Iraqi Forces, along with CLCs, will have enough capacity to continue to hold an area and Al Qaeda in Iraq will be diminished enough to not present such a daunting threat.

Finally, I must point out something of equal importance. During this operation, Coalition Forces "discovered and cleared 13 improvised explosive devices, 10 vehicleborn IEDs, four house-born IEDs and 15 weapon caches." This is 10 VBIEDs and several IEDs from the 15 caches that will never harm an Iraqi again. The more and more Coalition Forces are able to prevent attacks, the safer Iraqis will feel, and the more they will provide intelligence of other Al Qaeda caches and personnel.

It doesn't hurt when Coalition Forces can take this many weapons or explosive devices off the street, nor does it hurt when we can kill, wound, or detain 32 Al Qaeda in Iraq members who used to harass and terrorize the people in the town of Muqdadiyah and its surrounding "Bread Basket".

These Iraqis can now get back to growing food which allows them to make a living and engage in commerce. Over time they will rebuild their villages, towns, and businesses with the help of micro-grants and other Coalition reconstruction projects.

Over time, Iraq will become a flourishing economy due to the efforts of Coalition Forces killing Al Qaeda in Iraq and providing security for the local population in places like the "Bread Basket" area of Muqdadiyah.

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The mysterious Afghan warlord trusted to spread peace in a divided province

From Times Online.

Mullah Abdul Salaam, 45-year-old former Mujahidin guerrilla who recently switched sides and is now in charge of the key district of Musa Qala had this to say when talking with former Taliban soldiers.

“It is enough now,” he urged the 30 men huddled around him. “Our dead have been eaten by the dogs.” He gestured at a small group of British and American officers. “You can see around you these people from noble nations have come to build you streets and schools. If they should ask you to leave your religion then you have a right to fight them, but not because they come to bring you streets and schools.”

The village was in an area roamed by Taleban led by Mullah Abdul Bari, who remains at large. Mullah Salaam wasted little time in using his own past connection with the militant commander in his address.

“Abdul Bari is our brother,” he said. “He can come and sit among us . . . He is from this land. Speak with him. But don’t let him be stupid. If he is not on the right path then don’t let yourself be sacrificed for him. Tell him to take his jihad somewhere else.” (emphasis added)

While he will need to be watch closely, Mullah Salaam's switch may lead to more reconciliation with other Taliban commanders.

Two things are significant in this article.

1. Winning hearts and minds is important. Several Taliban are starting to see Coalition forces are not there to occupy Afghanistan and suppress its people. We are there to bring the nation out of poverty which provides Al Qaeda with its fighters.

2. He is telling his forces to go out and talk to other Taliban to win them over.

For a full read, click here.

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