Day By Day

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Winning In Iraq

Strategy Page comments on the recent statements by Osama Bin Laden and interprets them to be an admission that Al Qaeda has lost the struggle in Iraq.

On October 22nd, Osama bin Laden admitted that al Qaeda had lost its war in Iraq. In an audiotape speech titled "Message to the people of Iraq," bin Laden complains of disunity and poor use of resources. He admits that al Qaeda made mistakes, and that all Sunni Arabs must unite to defeat the foreigners and Shia Moslems. What bin Laden is most upset about is the large number of Sunni Arab terrorists who have switched sides in Iraq. This has actually been going on for a while. Tribal leaders and warlords in the west (Anbar province) have been turning on terrorist groups, especially al Qaeda, for several years. While bin Laden appeals for unity, he shows only a superficial appreciation of what is actually going on in Iraq.
The key factor in this victory, one mentioned in interviews on several occasions by military commanders in the field, but generally ignored by the MSM, was the systematic collection and analysis of operational intelligence by the military itself.
It was done with data. Years of collecting data on the bad guys paid off. Month by month, the picture of the enemy became clearer. This was literally the case, with some of the intelligence software that created visual representations of what was known of the enemy, and how reliable it was. The picture was clear enough to maneuver key enemy factions into positions that make them easier to run down.
Intelligence is the key to modern warfare, but it does not fit well with the romantic image of war generally held by the public and journalists. It consists of the slow, painstaking accumulation of information gained by a variety of means, some of them quite unsavory, and sophisticated analysis of it. This takes time. People and politicians prefer to see the daring strategic or tactical success, the clash of arms, the heroic confrontation. What they get is a slow but sure increase in efficacy as information begins to pay off over time on the battlefield, as resources are gradually attrited, and as the enemy's range of options narrows.

This was what happened in Iraq, and military specialists will understand the awesome effectiveness of our campaign there, but there will be no domestic political payoff because it does not conform to our romantic view of warfare.

One of the complaints against Rumsfeld was that under him the military was assuming more and more control over intelligence operations. Given the general ineptitude and near treasonous behavior of CIA operatives and the general effectiveness of military intelligence it would seem that Rummy understood the situation much better than did his critics.

There is more to the article than this. Our victory has not been over just Al Qaeda in Iraq. We have also defeated the old-line Saddamist thugs, reducing their numbers to a few thousand, and we are carrying the fight successfully to Al Qaeda on a global scale.
In addition to defeat in Iraq, the [Al Qaeda] organization is being battered in North Africa, South East Asia, Somalia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Bin Laden has not got any good news to talk about....
Indeed, and for us that is good news.

I blame Bush.

Read the whole article here.


To illustrate the importance of intelligence, note this passage from Michael Yon's latest report from Iraq.
Today, I'm staying at a small outpost called JSS (Joint Security Station) “Black Lions" with the 1-18th Infantry battalion. Al Qaeda are so diminished in this area, according to the commander here, LTC Patrick Frank, that they are maybe 3 percent of the problem. But JAM (the Madhi Army created by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr) is the big problem around JSS Black Lion.

A soldier was blown up and killed about 400 meters away on Thursday evening. LTC Frank told me the other day that his best weapon system is his cell phone. Calls come to him (through his interpreter) every day and into the night, with information from locals about the whereabouts of wanted JAM members. Many local people are clearly fed up with the violence. Some even send e-mails with Google Earth maps showing exactly where suspects are, and they are doing it in real time.

We'll be sitting there in the TOC (tactical operations center or HQ) and an e-mail comes in and it's literally a map (or a photo of one) with detailed descriptions of wanted men and/or caches. And the information is turning out to be true. I have never seen anything like this before,

It's becoming almost bizarre how specific the informants are becoming. Informants have called up saying they are with bad guys right now and giving their location. Our guys show up and arrest everyone. Hours later, the U.S. soldiers let the informants go. JAM and AQI are getting slammed in many areas because local people are sick of the violence and local people trust Americans to help them end it.

Read the whole thing here.