"Just one look at what we have wrought in Iraq brings back memories of Liberia or Albania. Ragged bands of oddly dressed civilians carrying brand new heavy machine guns, RPG’s and AK’s -- with nary a clue on how to use them other than they can now use them on full auto with impunity or concern for ammo costs."
"The good news is that we track these hometown Rambos with biometrics and insist that they will be integrated into the police or army but right now there is a free-for-all that is sending the most hardened insurgents scampering for cover."
Found! A rockin' analysis and summary from Iraq Slogger about one part of the Petraeus strategy -- and yes, I know the site is Eason Jordan's baby. I'd say he's doing a pretty good job at trying redeem himself. Remember that Jordan built up many contacts in Iraq during his years working there; that value shouldn't go down the tubes in a time of war.
Along with analysis the site carries a constantly updated roundup of important Iraq and US press stories on the Iraq campaign. So along with Bill Roggio's Fourth Rail, the Iraq Slogger is a must-read if you want to stay oriented to fast-moving events in Iraq. I'm adding the Slogger site to the Pundita blogroll. Okay, here's part of the Hail Mary piece by Robert Y. Pelton:
[...] under time pressures, Petraeus has chosen the Hail Mary or Gordian Knot solution: Cut through the complicated political and sectarian web we have spun ourselves into and start fresh -- and at ground level. Or in other words: Do the best you can with what you have within the time that you have.
His solution? Stick as many guns into as many hands as fast as possible appears to be the new ground strategy. Current US and Iraqi ground presence is not sustainable. So why not invite the spectators from the bleachers to play on your team as well? These new players are known as “Emergency Response Units” aka “Salvation Councils" aka "Legitimate Resistance Forces" aka local militias, mercenaries, armed gangs, tribal fighters or whatever.
The solution harks back to the most basic counterinsurgency strategy: Divide and conquer or “If everyone is fighting each other they won’t have time to fight us.”
The CIA and the military are now busy calving off more and more local fighting groups to create a bewildering mix of Shia, Sunni, tribal, regional and even neighborhood armies. As long as they aren’t “the bad guys” (not really a label used in counterinsurgency since technically they are all bad and good guys) then that leaves smaller and smaller groups of insurgents left to fight. Even if they were or are bad guys, keeping them inside the tent is still a better prospect than wondering what they are doing outside the tent.
Armies consisting of illiterates, criminals, drop-outs and former insurgents are being armed and trained and paid between $100 and $300 per mission to join the fray. ERU’s are created by large financial payments to sheikhs who must provide manpower for the free guns and training or through local power brokering to once terrified citizens is another and simple survivor-like “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” logic provides the rest.
Sometimes ad hoc armies are created by kicking open the back of a truck and handing out ammunition, food and medical supplies. These tribal, ethnic or local militias are in effect glorified death squads. Groups who use their newly-found violent powers with little restraint to push out what they believe are hostile elements.
Just one look at what we have wrought in Iraq brings back memories of Liberia or Albania. Ragged bands of oddly dressed civilians carrying brand new heavy machine guns, RPG’s and AK’s -- with nary a clue on how to use them other than they can now use them on full auto with impunity or concern for ammo costs.
You might notice that these homespun Iraqi militias are using identical weapons to those we gave the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan... and they are the same weapons we worked so hard to hand them back over when the fight was over. As one Iraqi politician Sami al-Askari commented in the CSN, "What the Americans are doing is very risky and unwise. They are planting the seeds for future wars."
The re-building of the Iraqi police and the Army was a great idea at the time but the concept of the Iraqi’s standing up so that we could stand down went out the window months ago.
Currently there are 346,000 Iraqi soldiers and police trained and in play, US troops can deliver around 150,000 men with about 10 to 15% being actually trigger pullers. The ERU’s supposedly number 25,000 which if the above tooth-to-tail ratio is considered is a pretty healthy number of armed men thrown into the fight. If the full head count of the ERU’s actually show up to fight, that’s an armed-on-the-street force equal to the US and half of the available Iraqi forces in raw manpower, if not skills.
The good news is that we track these hometown Rambos with biometrics and insist that they will be integrated into the police or army but right now there is a free-for-all that is sending the most hardened insurgents scampering for cover.
Barrier to Entry Lowered
The other bright spot is the impact that arming every Abdul, Omar and Harry will have when and if neighboring countries need to begin stabilization efforts. Having a menu of fractious easy-to-buy groups with pliant warlords makes Saudi, Syrian, Jordanian, Iranian and even tribal involvement easier and cheaper. The free-market/swarm concept of hundreds of regional militias may be exactly the grass roots stability solution we are looking for -- or our worst nightmare.
The new entreprenurialization of warfare on the streets of Iraq also puts extraordinary pressure on the sclerotic and ponderous Iraqi government to shore up their crumbling power bases. The U.S has effectively spent years centralizing power by disarming and is now rapidly decentralizing that power by arming locals. This new energy coupled with the diplomatic overtures being made by a once stone-faced administration means that the ball is being moved in the right direction and the Hail Mary move may be the one the administration was praying for and the Iraqis fear the most. Finally Special Forces teams are now shifting from being Big Army's 3am door knockers to doing what they do best. [...]