Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Is the "surge" working?

Decide for yourself by reading this excellent link.

This post is not about whether current ops are “working” — for us, here on the ground, time will tell, though some observers elsewhere seem to have already made up their minds (on the basis of what evidence, I’m not really sure). But for professional counterinsurgency operators such as our SWJ community, the thing to understand at this point is the intention and concept behind current ops in Iraq: if you grasp this, you can tell for yourself how the operations are going, without relying on armchair pundits. So in the interests of self-education (and cutting out the commentariat middlemen—sorry, guys) here is a field perspective on current operations.
David Kilcullen is Senior Counterinsurgency Adviser for the MNF in Iraq. I'll summarize his general points below.

We're not not fighting the same fight as before. We're hitting multiple locations simultaneously to restrict the relocation activities of the enemy.

Clearing a location doesn't mean killing all the enemy there. It means rescuing the population from the insurgent influence. This is based on the following facts:
  • The enemy needs the people to act in certain ways (sympathy, acquiescence, silence, reaction to provocation) in order to survive and further his strategy.
  • The enemy is fluid, but the population is fixed.
  • Being fluid, the enemy can control his loss rate and therefore can never be eradicated by purely enemy-centric means: he can just go to ground if the pressure becomes too much. BUT, because he needs the population to act in certain ways in order to survive, we can asphyxiate him by cutting him off from the people.
  • The enemy may not be identifiable, but the population is.
He finishes by saying
So far, thank God, the loss rate has not been too terrible: casualties are up in absolute terms, but down as a proportion of troops deployed (in the fourth quarter of 2006 we had about 100,000 troops in country and casualties averaged 90 deaths a month; now we have almost 160,000 troops in country but deaths are under 120 per month, much less than a proportionate increase, which would have been around 150 a month). And last year we patrolled rarely, mainly in vehicles, and got hit almost every time we went out. Now we patrol all the time, on foot, by day and night with Iraqi units normally present as partners, and the chances of getting hit are much lower on each patrol. We are finally coming out of the "defensive crouch" with which we used to approach the environment, and it is starting to pay off.