30 December 2006

The Kings Gambit of Baghdad

This is something I have been thinking on for awhile and have given commentary elsewhere about and put forward a slow rise in force structure as part of The Jacksonian Party position. But, Oakleaf does ask the question that, if you are put in control of CENTCOM what would your response be to the offer of 30,000 troops? There are quite some number of answers and I tried to stay away from the existing and commentary ones, while I thought about it and ran across a further response on this over at Dawnsblood.

The essential problem of '30,000 troops' is that they come with their Tooth to Tail ratio: how many support troops for each active combat soldier. In Viet Nam this was a 1:7 ratio, so that each active combat soldier had 7 soldiers in admin, supply and so on to back him up and ensure that equipment stayed operational, that he got fed and so on and on. Lately that has been pared down by contracting out such things as food service and other services that can be done without the need of using soldiers to do them. And Oakleaf puts it currently at 1:3, which sounds about right given the amount that has been handed over on the logistics and stores area to private firms to manage.

With that your 30,000 troops gets divided by 4 to get you active combat soldiers: 7,500.

Now these are to be put into Baghdad to quell the resistance there. A bit of calculation shows that this is not so many folks to cover an area the size of Baghdad, and may be composed of National Guard or Reserve units that may not have previously been in Iraq and who may not even have had the most recent MOUT course, which is essential as that entire training regime should have been upgraded to reflect current knowledge and state of the art. If the logistics folks do it, then active combat capability should have been doing this about the same time.

In theory, this force could be used to substitute out troops in less nasty areas, but the further question of the linguistics and cultural training that the Active Forces have gone through is also in question. It does *no good* to take out well known and skilled forces and replace them with new forces that can't even keep the rudiments of local knowledge down and teaching them OJT is damned difficult as you need those trainers for other jobs. So, most likely that is a non-starter as the LAST thing you want to do is PO local tribes that you have been working with by handing them newbies that don't know the lingo and don't have time to learn the ropes. You do not want Baghdad 'quelled' only to face an 'unquelling' in areas that had previously been secured because of our own lack of training.

So, as a Theater Commander I am basically in a bind. And since this civilian polrep is also letting you know it is based upon a John McCain fragile 'Congressional Coalition' that will hang together for an expected short period of time, you cannot look forward to having a nice, long shift in forces, either. But this is a polrep, so, instead of politely saying: 'No, I wish to win here not find a strange and stupid way to make it unravel' you do the #1 thing that a polrep understands.

You make a counter-offer.

Here is where you dig into your tactical command school training and dredge that up and start thinking over the situation at hand. The current strategy has had pluses and minuses to it and you tick those off first.

By deciding to by-pass the cities and built-up areas, by and large, the immediate post-war problems were addressed via an 'inverse oildrop' concept. Every 'oildrop' tried on every other insurgency or rebellion had basically pushed the rebellion into the rural areas and set urban populations against rural ones, so that the entire conflict has turned into class-based warfare. That has never worked long or well, even though it gives superficial peace in the cities, the entire Nation would hang by a thread and most likely dissolve into the real deal of revolution. Avoiding that required:

1) Taking on the weakest insurgency *first* which was also the most hated - The Ba'athists. The first push along the south-central axis divided the Ba'athists and they retreated towards the north as their resupply lines end in Syria. No surprise there. However, that was followed with the Riverine to Tal Afar campaign which made the Ba'athists finally unwelcome in much of Anbar.

2) While this went on, the quiet provinces to the north were given basic protection and were the natural training areas for the New Iraqi Army. That was *not* only the Kurdish regions, but then extending outwards from there. By working long and hard, especially in Mosul and environs, the insurgency to the north was being dealt a fatal blow until al Qaeda lost so many people that they started to disintegrate as any force there at all. Unfortunately they drew back into Anbar just at the tail end of the Riverine campaign and getting the Ba'athists first was more important. Still, this allowed for the north and central axis of Iraq to not only get quieter, but to serve as a building block for the New Iraqi Army. al Qaeda proved a *perfect* learning experience.

3) Taking care of Fallujah was of paramount importance as al Qaeda could not be allowed to consolidate. That part of the campaign was nasty and slowed things down while the Iraqis had to spin up military and police to actually help cover the regions of the country they already had and ensure that peace was kept. Getting out of Fallujah has been a process, but does clearly demonstrate that the MNF is not 'taking sides' with the Sunni or the Ba'athists. This bought good local relations, as these things go, and started to win over the tribes. Putting the Poles in charge of the entire central region was a stroke of great luck, as their deeply held religious values and understanding of despotism has won over friends faster than anything else around.

4) Slowly turning the forces into Anbar has been a problem, which has required endless on-the-ground commitment to tribal relations and the slow winning of those tribes to the Government. That and the fact that al Qaeda is cash rich and man poor has been leading to uncovering huge caches of bomb making equipment, RPGs, AKs, and Dragunovs. All tell-tale signs of al Qaeda suppliers and tactics. By August, when the fighting really got nasty, a corner was turned in Anbar with 25 tribes committing to the Government side and only 6 loosely allied to al Qaeda. The Ba'athists tried to make some show of going against al Qaeda, but that has been minor red on red as they are both man poor now.

5) The UK has been a great force for capturing and initial quelling of the south, but their oversight, or lack of same, on the police forces is coming to a head. The Brits are now having to take down the corrupt police units and hope the others are not too badly corrupted. Basra and environs has been so-so, with definite Iranian infiltration and multiple captures of armed Iranians and Iranian spies setting up listening posts and such. That border area is far more porous than the US southern border and something *really* needs to be done there, but not without Iraqi say-so. Basic holding pattern with shallow upward spiral there.

6) The border forts, however, have come together pretty quickly north of that and have allowed for better monitoring and some interdiction along the entire Iraq/Iran border. Until Iraq gets a solid, if inexpensive, UAV presence, that will always be the case, although some remote ground sensors and such do help.

7) Ramadi was the central point for the resistance and insurgency and is now slowly being taken over by Iraqi forces, and they have needed MNF help on some of the huge weapon stores that have been found there. It is amazing how much money al Qaeda will spend on equipment and so little on training that they run out of people *first*. Some of the local Shia insurgents are finding that they are not welcome, and that is starting this next phase of the campaign off.

8) Baghdad, by sector, is not great, but not in absolute chaos, either. The bad sectors are known and the INTEL folks are piecing together the supply routes and contacts. That really should go in one, large operation around MAR 07 and it *cannot* be pushed. To take down the insurgency it needs to be scoped out and then rooted out fully. The current work is to isolate the insurgents into groups or pockets with coms intercepts targeted against them and roadblocks and such to pick up the strays. UAVs are also proving a good way to bring a few of the more adventurous out to try something that appears safe and ends up suddenly lethal.

9) The major problem in Baghdad has been Iraqi Army training and 'spin-up' time for new troops. They have plenty of troops, but many units have to be battle-hardened and have a thorough going over for infiltration before they become fully operational. Baghdad and Ramadi have been great places to have them show allegiances, so that they can be isolated and taken care of by internal units in the Iraqi Army. By switching units between the two, all sides of the insurgency are exposed, thus allowing for all sides of infiltration to come to light. A slow and unappealing process, but the effects are higher Iraqi morale and readiness, even though they lack basic supplies. While they are brave they are not foolhardy and know the difference between the two. So, without a faster cleaning process for the Army units, it will be some long months if not a year or more until Baghdad is properly taken over by Iraqi forces.

10) Targeting the Shia insurgents is having big windfalls, now that al Qaeda is seen as a 'weak horse' and the Ba'athists force to suckle from Syria. Many of the central tribes have listened to other tribes, had great meetings with the MNF, again with the Poles, and the Government, which is what is allowing Ramadi to slowly be taken over. Considering Ramadi to be a 'smaller Baghdad' that means waiting for Iraqi troops to do everything will be a long time. To buy some of that now allows for the active targeting of the Sadrists and other Iranian mercenaries, which the Government doesn't like so much, but they are having few choices on the matter. Sistani, while scuttling the cross-ethnic agreement has *also* continued his tirade against all insurgents. The 'nasty suspicion' is that he is using the removal of the other armed factions to put the Iranian backed militias into stark contrast with his own beliefs. That may or may not be a winning concept, and waiting for that to come through is also a non-starter. Still, he will not sanction any militia, so that is all to the good. Probably wants Sadr out of the picture. With the work of the UK the breakup of the major insurgent groups into smaller 'bite sized' pieces should continue through the spring and early summer.

Given all of that, what do you do with this polrep? Not being able to ignore the politics at home, you would really love to get the insurgents off of the TV screens, too. No one wants to go out and see what little else the insurgents can actually do, these days, but so long as they can get air time, that is all that matters.

Sitting back and thinking: are there any other historical situations like this? Where it was basically duck and fire and long waits and patrols and danger at every corner, but not all the time everywhere?

The Balkans don't count and nothing like that in recent years anyways.

Viet Nam? No, nothing like this.

Korea? No, too fast moving to have to deal with this.

Basically everything *since* WWII does not lead to this sort of situation, save for the 'peacekeeping' in places like Haiti and the less said about those places, the better.

No, you need to pull up the insurgency as individuals as they do not fight as a coherent force.

Berlin? No, that was definitely cohesive forces right down to the room-to-room fire fights in apartment blocks. The insurgency isn't capable of that.

Stalingrad? The death of tanks? Not really... except... small forces... interdiction... fast movement between long lulls... why, yes, there IS a historical analogy and a damned good one, too! Excellent, in fact, as it does not rely on armored forces nor artillery and Baghdad does not have to be shot up and as an operational city will actually MAGNIFY the effect. A definite Chinese water torture to the insurgency and they have ZERO to counter it. There will have to be a change to the ROE, but it is minor... trivial.

Your answer to the Political Representative of the CinC?

"Tell you what, instead of regular combat troops, can you give me every single sniper team available across the US Armed Forces for about 3 months? We need to have the ROE changed so we can get rid of the insurgent contacts, too, so that their networks can be degraded and pulled up by regular units, both US and Iraqi. A bit better UAV coverage would help and some back-end coordination between units, but that should be pretty easy to do. Basically, I need the guys who can reach through walls and hurt someone and has the patience to do it right... lots of them working together. I guarantee low Civilian casualties."

The extremely befuddled look on the polrep's face tell you that you have just hit him upside the head with a 2x4, so you help him out.

"This is a fight of removing effectiveness and cohesion. To do that we are already isolating the insurgents and putting them into pockets to ID and scope out via INTEL. The faster way to do that is to get a pair of eyes that will always be watching them across all of Baghdad and give them time to do the best job they can until 'go-day'. All the Snipers will have picked their spots, deconflicted their fire zones, arranged for good patrols, set up their replacement schedules and become the eyes and ears of the entire setup, and the long arm that will reach out once the scoping is basically done. I need their eyes and patience, first, so the INTEL ops folks can figure it all out and set up the priority list. Then, on the go-day, it will be killing time. They will not know what hit them."

After Afghanistan and Iraq and other places that cannot be mentioned, you, as a Theater Commander *know* what this tool of warfare is and what it means. Stalingrad became a no-go because of the rubble and people hiding everywhere. They were not hiding from the tanks.

They were hiding from the Snipers.

And in a clean and undamaged city, the Sniper is King.

And with the version of the rifle introduced in Afghanistan, reaching through cinderblocks to hurt people is not a problem.

This would not end the insurgency, but it would make keeping them *out* of Baghdad a whole lot easier as the militants, their commanders, their suppliers... all of that goes. And anyone fool enough to not be in the recognized Iraqi or MNF Uniforms and carrying a weapon... will find a sudden end to their lives. A bitch to get going, probably take 3 weeks just for that alone... but once the observing is in place, and a few hits here and there to take out the few 'oddballs' and let people know they are being watched, that should do it. Stop daytime ops against personnel and let them think the night is safe, while we harvest INTEL. Exhausting for the Snipers, true. But it should a be a job they will enjoy after CNN...

"The only other thing is that whatever the Snipers need in the way of equipment, they GET. Nothing is spared from this, but I doubt they will need much. You want the violence of the TV screens gone, I can deliver, but only after something no one has ever witnessed before, anywhere."

'That's it?', the polrep asked.

"Yeah, some good Sharpshooters to hang around once the Snipers leave so that good eyes can still be had to make sure the insurgents don't get back in too easily. My regular forces can keep the peace pretty well after that with the few hot-headed instant radicals that still will pop up."

'You are planning something else, aren't you?', the polrep asked.

"Of course I am! You asked me about Baghdad, you don't have to know about the rest as the CinC will get this in a nice briefing book in a day or two."

The polrep shuddered. 'What about Congress?'

"This is war, son. The CinC wants something done and I am going to do it if he gives the go-ahead. Congress might think about getting me some of the other stuff I need for the long haul and stop trying to run a war."

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