Operation Phantom Thunder was a Corps level operation beginning on June 16th. It recently concluded on August 14th. Operation Phantom Strike follows.

This is the so-called “surge” operation of the new counterinsurgency plan. It was coupled with the tribal alliances of the Iraqi Awakening Movement.

The new COIN strategy is designed to break the Sunni insurgency through disaggregation. The US forces will clear Al-Qaeda forces out of the cities and hold the territory with Iraqi security forces. The military operations are the shaping phase. They will then work with tribal leaders to begin reconstruction and stabalization operations which is the decisive phrase.

This targets the morale center of gravity of the insurgency. The territorial center of gravity is Baghdad itself.

The Iraqi Strategy has several sub-operations and movements.
1) The Iraqi Awakening
2) The Baghdad Security Plan
3) Sub-Operations around Baghdad

Victory Caucus has a map of the different operations.

Iraqi Awakening
The Sunni Anbar Province was the center of resistance. The tribes were hostile to the US presence and many tribesmen and former Ba’athists joined the insurgency. The Euphrates River flows through the Privince from Syria. Logistical routes crossed the border and kept the Iraqi insurgency supplied. Anbar is where many Salafi radicals entered the country or were recruited locally into Al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups.

In August 2006, the 25 of the 31 Sunni Anbar Tribes turned against the insurgency. Al-Qaeda’s cruelty and oppressive regime – the Islamic Emirate of Iraq – alienated tribal leaders and their people. AQI terrorist attacks against Iraqis disturbed Iraqi nationalists. Shia Mahdi Militia engaged in tit for tat retaliations which forced over a million Sunnis to flee their homes. The Sunni tribes realized the insurgency lost the war and stood to lose far more if AQI continues the violence.

The Anbar Salvation Council formed in September. American forces contacted the tribes and began to coordinate their efforts in the city of Ramadi. Shortly before this event, Anbar had been considered a lost cause. This turn around was first reported by military and Iraqi bloggers at the time.

The Anbar Salvation Front provided over 25,000 policemen and militia and provided a flood of intelligence on AQI operations in their territory. This eliminated Al-Qaeda’s base of operations in the province and cut the insurgency off from its logistical supply lines with Syria. The levels of violence in Anbar dropped by over 90% in some regions with in a year. The rapid turn around is largely because the insurgents surrendered and joined the coalition.

The “Anbar Model” is used to start operations in other provinces, such as the Diyala Awakening. American and Iraqi forces contacted tribal leaders in Diyala, Babil, Saladin, Ninewah, and Baghdad and formed provincial Awakening movements in each. Cooperation with the tribes and local religious leaders is crucial for future COIN operations.

The Awakening movement is a political reconciliation at the local level. Tribes and sects put aside their differences and cooperate at the municipal and provincial level. The new Iraqi Awakening Party seek to win elections in the coming provincial and national elections and defeat the more extremists parties.

The Baghdad Security Plan
Called Operation Law and Order, this secures the capital city. It uses a tourniquet model, cordening off the city into isolated segments. They then clear out each neighborhood and hold it.

This led to the expansion of secure regions and pacification of neighborhoods, as well as a drop in sectarian killings.

The other operations are designed to cut off the insurgency’s logistical access to Baghdad to prevent reinforcements and regeneration of the insurgency inside the city. Unexpected success in Anbar made US forces realize they had momentum.

To the North, Operation Arrowhead Riper targeted the city of Baqubah in Diyala. The al-Qaeda stronghold was overrun by an alliance of Coalition and nationalist insurgent forces. The new Diyala Salvation Front is helping hold and pacify the region. The closes off access to the Tigris River and transportation routes leading to Baghdad and Iran.

Operation Marne Torch secured the Babil Province to the south of Baghdad. The new Babil Awakening movement has been organized. Coalition Forces are doing the same in Ninaweh and Saladin provinces.

This COIN operation does not merely chase the insurgents and terrorists. The enemy-centric strategies of 2005-2006 and those proposed by the Democratic Party failed to defeat the insurgency, and actually made it worse.

The new COIN strategy does not target terrorists at all. It targets the civilian population. It uses the oil spot strategy instead. This separates the enemy from its life-supporting ecology. Without access to civilians, the insurgency will be starved of political and material resources.

Note that the US operations are occurring simultaneously across the Sunni Triangle. It is rapidly closing off territory and supply-routes which the insurgency can flee to. Phantom Thunder, in two months, eliminated the insurgency’s strong points and sanctuaries.

In every location, the US is forging local ties with Sunni tribes to quiet the insurgency. Many Ba’athists have quit fighting and joined the Coalition. This sets the ground-work for the political reforms which will follow these operations. The Ba’athists are getting de-facto amnesty by working with the US military. The new Iraqi Awakening party will replace the Sunni sectarian Iraqi Islamic Party. This is also setting the stage for a Federalist government.

The Sunni Insurgency has been defeated and coopted by Coalition Forces. Terrorist attacks by AQI will continue, but this should be considered distinct from the insurgency.

Iraq, in a few years, will look like Algeria following the brutal civil war. In Algeria, Islamists movements like Al-Qaeda still linger around and committing terrorist attacks. But the insurgency ended and was politically defeated.