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War Update

Iraq’s Slippery Slope…to Peace?

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008


The Pentagon just released the latest Measuring Security and Stability in Iraq report. Here are some pull-outs from the Executive Summary. You can read the entire document HERE.

My question is how will the MSM portray this report and what negatives will they focus on? It will also be interesting to see if the major papers and networks ignore the update. We’ll see…

…The overall security situation in Iraq has greatly improved this reporting period. Security incidents have remained at levels last seen in early 2004 for nearly three consecutive months, while civilian deaths across Iraq have declined to a level 77% lower than the same period in 2007. The surge in Coalition forces, the growth of more capable Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), the contributions of the Sons of Iraq (SoI), the ability of forces to secure the population, operations against Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and other extremist elements, and the increased willingness of the people and the Government of Iraq (GoI) to confront extremists are important factors that have contributed to the improved security environment. Periodic high-profile car and suicide vest bombings have occurred, but the number of these attacks and the resulting casualties have decreased dramatically. Moreover, these attacks have not rekindled the self-perpetuating cycle of ethno-sectarian violence that plagued Iraq in late 2006 and the first half of 2007.

…The emergence of the SoI remains one of the major developments of the past 18 months; however, the integration and employment of SoI remain a significant challenge. The SoI provide significant security benefits to their local communities by protecting September 26, 2008 neighborhoods, securing key infrastructure and roads, and identifying malign activity.

…The slow pace of transition is a concern. Continued GoI commitment is required to ensure SoI are fully transitioned to permanent employment. Recent allegations of GoI targeting SoI leaders in Diyala Province are of concern if they are indicators of GoI reluctance to integrate SoI into the ISF or, more broadly, to reconcile a diverse province. Prime Minister Maliki has recently signed an order reflecting his commitment that stipulates the GoI will assume responsibility for SoI in Baghdad and its environs (over 50,000) beginning in October 2008, but Coalition forces continue to pay the salaries of SoI personnel. Prime Minister Malikis order would move more than half of the SoIs to the GoI payroll.


How Small Raids Net Big Gains

Thursday, October 11th, 2007


The commander in charge of helping local Iraqis organize and fight al Qaeda and other anti-coalition forces said Wednesday that a raid last month netted a treasure trove of information that could spell the doom of al Qaeda terrorist smuggling operations in Iraq and, potentially, worldwide.

The description of the find exemplifies the kind of intelligence American and Iraqi forces are gaining, with the help of local tipsters, and provides a window into how commanders speak with such authority on insurgent ties to Iran and al Qaeda activity in Iraq.

The raid, conducted Sept. 11 in the town of Sinjar near the Syrian border, targeted what Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner called a foreign terrorist facilitation cell.

As coalition forces busted in on the seven-man AQ team, one of them detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and one of his companions, while the U.S. team made short work of the rest.

Aside from disrupting the small smuggling team, coalition forces found literally terabytes of electronic files, Bergner said, including 800 names of al Qaeda terrorists 143 of those either en route or already delivered to Iraq.

The intel included the terrorists names, passport numbers, home addresses and their transit routes that were involved in getting them here, Bergner said in an interview with military bloggers Oct. 10.

The computer files included documents on logistics and administrative activities, we saw how they spend their money on everything from food, fuel and weapons and even allocation of money to support some of their families, Bergner added.

In one macabre find, Bergner said troops obtained copies of suicide pledges that al Qaeda is using to help lead these individuals towards the performance of a suicide mission.

Though the raid netted only seven dead AQ terrorists, the information gleaned from it could cripple the groups operations in Iraq. Home addresses, phone numbers, transit routes, money information, food procurement, ammo, gunsthink how many strands of the web were picked up and the down-stream effects those have to the entire AQ network.

I wonder if AQ cells are going to change their record keeping after this. And it also makes me wonder why they keep such detailed operational records. I thought we were being led to believe these groups were loosely affiliated cells. Only someone that was being held to strict account would keep such detailed records.


Another (Quick) Look at the Surge…

Monday, September 17th, 2007

Iraqi police.jpg

I know we covered this subject ad nauseum last week, but I just thought I’d throw one more log on the fire of the “Petraeus Report” assessment melee that’s still simmering.

One of the most innovative and trusted “outside experts” in D.C. is Andrew Krepinevich and his stable of “formers” and other “think tankers” at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. It turns out, Krepinevich briefed senate staffers on the 10th, giving his read of the surge.

He’s been pretty down the line on the war, critiquing where he sees fit and approving when it looks like somethings working. Hes a strong advocate of counterinsurgency strategy but tends to lean more toward the Rumsfeldian “economy of force” school of thought.

His briefing slides are offered HERE in their entirety. But heres a look at his conclusions.

The Maliki Government is seemingly unable (unwilling?) to affect a national reconciliation it lacks coercive power, legitimacy, and competence, consequently.

Iraqs factions are increasingly making their own way, establishing their own control, protecting (or extorting) those people who live under their rule, and making their own alliances with foreign powers (e.g., Sunni tribes and US; Shia militias and Iran).

The US is slowly but surely seeing its ability to influence events in Iraq wane … In part because of a growing perception that the American public has one foot already out the door.

The US command in Baghdad has adapted admirably to changing circumstances, but the situation is dynamic and the path to national reconciliation may no longer lie through the Maliki Governmentthus the Surge Metrics may be OBE … If so …

What should succeed them? What is the new way forward? And not just in Iraq, but in the theater of conflict stretching from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Hindu Kush?

– Christian

Document Alert!

Monday, September 10th, 2007


Here are the testimony and accompanying slides from the appearance today of Gen. David Petraeus before the House Armed Services Committee.

Be sure to use these when reading this morning’s entry: “Seeing the Counterinsurgency Forest From the Trees”


Testimony of Gen. David Petraeus

Gen. David Petraeus Briefing Slides

(Gouge: Mike Goldfarb)

– Christian

MNF-I Lays Out Its Case

Thursday, July 5th, 2007


Heres an update to the Hezbollah in Iraq story, especially for those who want harder proof of the Iran nexus.

A few days ago, the new chief spokesman for multi-national forces in Iraq held a press conference on the heels of the Associated Press and CNN stories on the capture of a key Hezbollah special operations commander in Iraq who provided proof of Irans complicity in the deaths of American troops.

Defense Tech wanted to bring our readers attention to some of the documents and transcripts provided by MNF-I that bolster their claim. Any Arab speakers out there, please give the docs a once-over and see if they are indeed what U.S. commanders say they are…

View the entire MNF-I brief HERE

– Christian

Hezbollah in Iraq

Monday, July 2nd, 2007


Last week Defense Tech pulled out an interesting line from a June 22 briefing given to Pentagon reporters on operations in Iraq by Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno.

Odierno was asked several questions about the involvement of Iran in Iraqs insurgency. As youll remember, he said specifically that Iran had been training insurgent mortar teams on how to quickly set up in cover, accurately fire and extract mortar teams before U.S forces could nab them.

He also said, in what probably passed through most reporters ears, this sentence in reference to evidence of Irans training and direction of Iraq insurgents (emphasis added):

And I think, you know, we’ve had some indications of that through some of the people we’ve detained, and I think in the future here we’re going to lay some of that out for you. So I think — we feel pretty confident about those links.

Well, now it looks like that has happened. Our sister site, Military​.com, is reporting this morning an Associated Press story that indicates Lebanese Hezbollah was involved in a kidnapping attempt of U.S. troops in January. The terrorists were trained and advised by Iranian Quds force officers and instructed to carry out a high-profile hostage taking similar to the one that sparked the war with Israel last summer.

Iran is using the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah as a “proxy” to arm Shiite militants in Iraq and Tehran’s Quds force had prior knowledge of a January attack in Karbala in which five Americans died, a U.S. general said Monday.

U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner said a senior Lebanese Hezbollah operative, Ali Mussa Dakdouk, was captured March 20 in southern Iraq. Bergner said Dakdouk served for 24 years in Hezbollah and was “working in Iraq as a surrogate for the Iranian Quds force.”

The general also said that Dakdouk was a liaison between the Iranians and a breakaway Shiite group led by Qais al-Kazaali, a former spokesman for cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Bergner said al-Kazaali’s group carried out the January attack against a provincial government building in Karbala and that the Iranians assisted in preparations.

Al-Khazaali and his brother Ali al-Khazaali, both captured in March, have told U.S. interrogators that they “could not have conducted it (the Karbala attack) without support from the Quds force,” Bergner said.

Documents captured with al-Khazaali showed that the Quds Force had developed detailed information on the U.S. position at the government building, including “shift changes and defense” and shared this information with the attackers, the general said.

And CNNs top investigative reporter in Iraq, Michael Ware, never an apologist for the U.S. invasion and occupation, bolstered the AP report with his own work based on interviews with Iraqi government officials whod seen the forensic evidence and interrogation transcripts.

U.S. sources and Iraqi militia sources have said the carefully planned operation was meant to take captives who could be traded for five Iranians held by U.S. troops since a January 10 raid in Irbil, in northern Iraq. But the Karbala attack went awry, resulting in the deaths of the five Americans.

Qais Khazali, a onetime spokesman for anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army, was one of the men sought by American troops in connection with the attack. By the time of his March arrest, he had left the Mehdi Army and was leading one of the “special groups,” according to U.S. intelligence.

In searching for Khazali, U.S. and allied troops found computer documents detailing the planning, training and conduct of the failed kidnapping. And they found Daqduq, whom intelligence officials said has admitted working on behalf of Iran.

And an interesting postscript to Wares report (watch the video here): Dakdouk pretended to be a def-mute for a while until interrogators got him to talk, then he spilled the beans. Wonder how they got him to talk?


Leadership, Iraqi Style

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

After three years of training by coalition forces and nonstop combat with insurgents Iraqi army and police units are battle-hardened, highly motivated and skilled in battlefield drills. At the tactical level … we’re doing quite well, says Lieutenant General Martin Dempsey, a senior official in the coalition training organization. Theyre fighting, dying, being wounded, being moved around country. He says 5,300 Iraqi soldiers from outside of Baghdad have been brought in for the surge.

That last point their ability to deploy is a sure sign that Iraqi army units are improving. Battalions disintegrated last year when we tried to move them around. Now we have them ready to move, says Major General William Caldwell, top commander in Iraq.

That was not even possible six months ago, Dempsey points out.



Tuesday, May 8th, 2007


A story cropped up today on a March 4 incident where the first-deployed Marine Special Operations Company allegedly shot and killed innocent Afghan civilians in reaction to a roadside bomb ambush.

The story, of course, is not new. What is, however, is the tacit admission by Army officers in Afghanistan that the Marine special operators committed a crimebefore an official investigation has been completed!

I have been covering the formation of MarSoc since 2002, when a memorandum of understanding between the Corps and SOCom planted the seed for the new commando units. I have met some of the Force Reconnaissancemen in the new MarSoc company and can vouch for their professionalism, experience and skill.

Clearly something went wrong on that bumpy road in Nangahar province, but I know from contacts within the unit that there are definitely two sides to this story. And thats what investigations are for, right?

Why, then, did Col. John Nicholson, commander of the 3rd Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division deployed to Afghanistan, say this in a statement presented to the purported victims families of the March 4 incident:

I stand before you today, deeply, deeply ashamed and terribly sorry that Americans have killed and wounded innocent Afghan people

We are filled with grief and sadness at the death of any Afghan, but the death and wounding of innocent Afghans at the hand of Americans is a stain on our honor and on the memory of the many Americans who have died defending Afghanistan and the Afghan people

This was a terrible, terrible mistake, and my nation grieves with you for your loss and suffering

We humbly and respectfully ask for your forgiveness


The War Isn’t Lost to CPL Rock

Friday, April 27th, 2007


On a day when the political stars seemed aligned even stronger against Americas continued involvement in Iraq, I thought it might be a good idea to get a view of events from the front line.

A story thats making its way across the net comes from a Marine posted in Ramadi, Iraqi, who takes exception to Senate Democratic leader Harry Reids view that the war is lost.

From the New York Post:

WASHINGTON — A tough U.S. Marine stationed in one of the most hostile areas of Iraq has a message for Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid: We need to stay here and help rebuild.

In raw and emotional language from the bloody front lines, Cpl. Tyler Rock, of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, skewered Reid for being far removed from the patriotism and progress in Iraq.

Yeah, and I got a quote for that [expletive] Harry Reid. These families need us here, Rock vented in an e-mail to Pat Dollard, a Hollywood agent-turned-war reporter who posted the comment on his Web site, www​.patdollard​.com.

Obviously [Reid] has never been in Iraq. Or at least the area worth seeing … the parts where insurgency is rampant and the buildings are blown to pieces, Rock wrote.

Based in Camp Lejeune, N.C., Rock catalogued a series of grim daily traumas in Iraq, like getting covered in ash and sleeping under a dirty rug in an Iraqi familys house, or watching several terrorists die on the same strip of pavement.

But he says he is optimistic about the future of a country that he says has turned to complete s– — - during a bloody insurgency.

He also spoke admiringly of the risks brave Iraqi citizens take every day.

If Iraq didnt want us here then why do we have [Iraqi police] volunteering every day to rebuild their cities? he asked.

It sucks that Iraqis have more patriotism for a country that has turned to complete s– — - more than the people in America who drink Starbucks every day.

We could leave this place and say we are sorry to the terrorists. And then we could wait for 3,000 more American civilians to die before we say, Hey, thats not nice again.

And the sad thing is after we WIN this war. People like [Reid] will say he was there for us the whole time.

Rocks candid e-mail swept across the Internet after Dollard posted it on his site, and it was picked up by the Drudge Report and numerous other Web sites.

What does [Reid] know about us losing besides what he wants to believe? The truth is that we are pushing al Qaeda out and we are pushing the insurgency out. We are here to support a nation.

Hat-tip to Pat Dollard who was there with my buddy that horrible night in Ramadi. RIP Almar and Matt.


Tora Bora II

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

Military​.com is reporting today that Afghan security forces have surrounded a village near Kandahar that is reportedly sheltering some 200 Taliban fighters.

The rebels were found in the village of Keshay, which is in the Taliban heartland. The story says the rebels were there for a meeting when the obviously tipped-off ASF cut off their exit and demanded a surrender. The report says Taliban rebel leader Mullah Dadullah could be in the town as well, but so far has refused to surrender(photo from Counterterrorism blog).

This could be the decapitating blow allied forces were looking for in the smoldering Afghan conflict. Or, it could be a replay of Tora Bora, where payoffs and shifting alliances allowed al Qaeda and Talib fighters to escape.

Lets hope that the lessons of the Tora Bora battle have been learned and that the ASF as well as their NATO mentors are up to the challenge.