March 20, 2008

MiTTs in Mosul

A long article in today's NY Times discusses the US and Iraqi Army on operations in Mosul.

For those of us who believe that conflict among the people can only be resolved from within the people, it offers glimmers of hope while demonstrating the distance we have still to go.

It is excellent that we have moved from marching and saluting to combat skills and shooting.

We will not win, however, until we move to Iraqi units capable of securing the populace while at the same time helping to develop a comprehensive approach to insurgent areas which includes governance and economic development. This will have to happen within the framework of an effective propaganda and influence campaign (Information Operations is such a stupid euphemism) that ties together the various components and creates a wedge between neutral elements of the population and the insurgents.

Currently the definition of a ready Iraqi unit is one that is capable of conducting counterinsurgency operations with only very limited US support. Yet it is quite clear that the Iraqi units in Mosul are "conducting counterinsurgency" only in as much as any action directed against an insurgency, helpful or not, is by its definition counterinsurgency. Conceptual understanding of counterinsurgency by the Iraqis seems limited in the article (and is limited based on the feedback I get from my peers in Iraq).

And while the US maneuver commanders clearly are executing operations "in partnership" with Iraqi units, partnership seems by the article to occur only in the execution of operational plans decided upon by US commanders.

The Iraqi commander and staff seem not to have been involved in the planning process (let alone integrated into it) and have no ownership of the plan itself. The whole light bulb thing never has a chance to happen for the Iraqi commanders about to risk the lives of their men. Therefore the Iraqi commander is talking about walls while the US commander thinks about banging his head against one.

The commander talks about an Iraqi face to operations. Generally, a lack of combined planning ensures that you rarely get beyond an Iraqi "face" and actually succeed in building capacity.

American commanders, eager to give Iraqis credit for the mission to construct combat outposts throughout the city, frequently meet with Iraqi soldiers to encourage their participation.

This mindset is far better than the one we had in 2003 through 2006. It is still a far cry from:

"Iraqi leaders working in conjunction with their American mentors and partnered units decided upon a plan for combat outposts in the city in order to secure the populace."

When we see that kind of thinking among MiTTs and Coalition commanders both, then we will know that we are on the path that will allow the Iraqis to defeat an insurgency that we can never defeat ourselves.