Operation Arrowhead Ripper is far more extensive than the combat phase. Al-Qaeda was quickly routed and the Americans took the city. The next stage is to create the ground-work to hold the city. What Americans do not realize is that combat operations represent a very small portion of war – perhaps less than 5%. Soldiers must be skilled diplomats and management experts so they can negotiate settlements and lead reconstruction projects as part of the COIN strategy. The vast bulk of the operation consists of “non-kinetic” operations.

US Officers are negotiating with the Diyala Tribes and have helped form the Diyala Salvation Front, using the Anbar model. The tribes provide neighborhood watches (militia), intel, and police to provide security. Americans are also winning over wavering insurgent groups and helping to assimulate them into the government.

The Military is best utilized to engage in sub-state diplomacy. Militaries interact with non-state actors that professional diplomats at the State Department snub their noses to. Soldiers negotiate with local tribal leaders, city mayors, and insurgents. The Political operations of a counterinsurgency are always carried out with military forces.

Michael Yon is reporting on the aftermath of Arrowhead Ripper in the city of Baqubah, in Diyala Province. American Officers are performing non-military jobs and doing an excellent job. In 7-Rules, 1-Oath, Yon describes how Americans organized a meeting between the Iraqi Army and former insurgents to negotiate an agreement to divide security responsibilities. There were no State Department diplomats involved, not that ignorant civilians would have been of any help.

Today Colonel Steve Townsend, the American commander of the 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, presided over a meeting with Iraqi Army officers and former insurgent leaders. The insurgent leaders who seem to be sincerely working toward peace are now collectively referred to as “the Baqubah Guardians.”

Colonel Townsend’s staff had prepared a slideshow that started off with a draft of “7 Rules.” The final version of the 7 Rules were open to discussion and suggestions from those in attendance. The rules were followed by an Oath, also still in draft.

The Iraqi Army and insurgents debated the terms of the rules. For instance, the first rule states that all must protect their communities from AQI and JAM. They debated the terms and decided not to single out AQI and JAM and instead broadened the groups to include criminals and other militias like the Badrs.

They also wondered about the merits of their constitution.

Now it got interesting. One Iraqi said that even under the Saddam regime, bad as it was, the constitution still kept them together. He made no mention of the wars against the Kurds or Shia. But he went on to say that the current constitution tended to divide Iraq. No serious arguments were put forth on this today, but it was clear that fourth rule could lead to months or years of debate. After all, our own Constitution remains a work in progress, having been amended more than two dozen times. Each time that Americans bring this fact to forefront, it seems to assuage some of the “Constitutional-angst” among Iraqis, but that doesn’t change the fact that their government is about as solid as fog.

One of the more interesting points here is that all these Iraqis are nationalists. They removed sectarian terms like Sunni and Shia and they swore to end sectarian agendas.

What goes unremarked is that this is military diplomacy. Three military forces – American, Iraqi, and Iraqi insurgents, met together and debated constitutionalism and security issues. American officers arranged the meeting, arbitrated when needed, and provided advice.

All three forces spoke a common language that civilian politicians would not understand. These were blooded veterans with dust on their shoes debating philosophical points about the future of their country.

It is fashionable to say that military force is not the solution to these types of small wars. The political element is even more important. In reality, militaries provide that political element.

A second dispatch describes how the Army takes the lead in Reconstruction as officers serve as the de-facto City Mayors

What our people are trying to accomplish here is simple. Simple in the sense that a simply stated goal might be very hard to achieve. After vanquishing al Qaeda (that’s what the Iraqis here call them), the goal is to have no pause in the restoration of services. This is about mental inertia and psychology. The idea is to jump start the people and facilitate their taking responsibility for their communities.

Yon does get around to mentioning that the Iraqis seem to have a work-ethic that makes the French look industrious.

Even though LTC Goins must leave the meeting and return to the field, each day he and other commanders has to put his mind to work on how to administer Baqubah, and he knows one of his problems is water. Solve water, and lots of things can be carried forward on that momentum. (Actually, solving the fuel issue comes first; many of the water pumps and generators depend on the fuel, as do the vehicles, so they are concentrating on the fuel issue while prepping the water issue.)

The idea is to get the Iraqis to run their own cities but most of the old leaders are gone, and the new ones are like throwing babies to cow udders. Many just don’t know what to do, and in any case, most of them have no natural instinct for it. So our soldiers are mentoring Iraqi civil leaders, which is a huge education for me because I get to sit in on the meetings. The American leaders tell me what they are up to, which amounts for free Ph.D. level instruction in situ: just have to be willing to be shot at. (The education a writer can get here is unbelievable.) Meeting after meeting—after embeds in Nineveh, Anbar, Baghdad and Diyala—I have seen how American officers tend to have a hidden skill-set. Collectively, American military leaders seem to somehow intuitively know how to run the mechanics of a city.

Here is the secret strength of the Military’s skillset:

I have wondered now for two years why is it that American military leaders somehow seem to naturally know what it takes to run a city, while many of the local leaders seem clueless. Over time, a possible answer occurred, and that nudge might be due to how the person who runs each American base is referred to as the “Mayor.” A commander’s first job is to take care of his or her forces. Our military is, in a sense its own little country, with city-states spread out all around the world. Each base is like a little city-state. The military commander must understand how the water, electricity, sewerage, food distribution, police, courts, prisons, hospitals, fire, schools, airports, ports, trash control, vector control, communications, fuel, fiscal budgeting, fire, for his “city” all work. They have “embassies” all over the world and must deal diplomatically with local officials in Korea, Germany, Japan and many dozens of other nations. The U.S. military even has its own space program, which few countries have.
In short, our military is a reasonable microcosm of the United States – sans the very important business aspect which actually produces the wealth the military depends on. The requisite skill-set to run a serious war campaign involves a subset of skills that include diplomacy and civil administration.

While it would be nice if American civilians bothered to help, which they never do, I’m not sure how much good they will be. Military officers are more skilled at a wide range of tasks and better understand the local political situations in their operational environment. The political solution lays with the military in COIN ops.