As al-Qaeda is steadily destroyed and the Sunni Insurgency cooperates with the Americans, the Shia Tribes are turning on the militias.

The Sahwat continues.

“All the tribes agreed to fight al Qaeda until the last child in Anbar” – Ahmed Abu Risha.

National Security Strategy (from Small Wars Journal)

Strategic overwatch sounds like the US will continue fighting in Iraq for 5 years, but it’s much nicer than what civilians think.

Can I ask why Admiral William Fallon is in charge of CENTCOM? Alright, before I put on the uniform I want to say this while I’m still allowed to – why the fuck is this arrogant incompetent sailor in charge of land-wars? Sorry for the french.

Fallon is strongly committed to losing strategies and anyone who disagrees with him is a “chickenshit.” We got another Rumsfeld asshole in charge. My respect for Gen. Petraeus just shot up even more.

The US has disaggregated the Jaish al-Mahdi by separating the Iranian-backed “Special Groups”, the criminal mafias, and the “Noble” JAM loyal to Sadr. Sadr called for a six month ceasefire and suspension of JAM activity while he reorganizes the militia.

The US is opening negotiations with the “Noble” Jaish al-Mahdi. The idea is to temper the extremists by dividing and negotiating. This method shows JAM supporters that the “moderates” get results through diplomacy and politics while the violent factions get a bullet in the head.

I believe the gravest mistake in Iraq was to ignite a Jacobin revolution in the name of democracy. At worst, it sparks a violent terror to rapidly restructure society, and at best it leaves behind an unstable Illiberal Democracy.

Bill Ardolino interviews a Fallujan. I find it interesting that the Fallujans and Americans agreed upon a pleasing myth. They’ll blame the conflict on outside jihadists like Al-Qaeda even though they both know the vast bulk of the fighters were locals. But now that they are allies, it’s better to gloss over that time period.

INDC: When did things go bad for al Qaeda?
Leo: I think it was maybe … 10 months ago? Ten months, one year, that’s it. And everything began in Ar Ramadi, the Awakening of the al Anbar tribes. And when we see it’s working, Fallujans talked about the same actions and tried to save the people and save Fallujah from al Qaeda.
INDC: And what did al Qaeda do that was so bad, specifically?
Leo: Specifically, they targeted our mosques, our imams.

Al-Qaeda certainly has a unique way of disagreeing with the religious leaders of Islam.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq is badly destabalized at the moment. It lost its center of gravity amongst the Sunni Tribes. The major threat in Iraq has become Iran. So the US must shift its strategic focal point to counter this new threat.

Belmont Club notes that Petraeus explained few specifics of his plan to deal with Iran.

US forces have traced the transportation and communication routes from Iran to Iraq. A central hub is the border town of Zurbatiya, where most of the traffic flows through. The US is building a military base at Zurbatiya to intercept contraband, while moving to take down the JAM before Iran can build it up into a Hezbollah quality force. Petraeus reported that the Iranian Quds Force may have just withdrawn prior to the coming anti-Iranian offense in Iraq.

Links: Petraeus Report and the charts
Major Points:
– The Tribes are cooperating with security and local political reconciliation
– Al-Qaeda is severely disrupted
– Overall violence, insurgent attacks, and sectarian killings are down significantly
– The Iranians are withdrawing the Quds force from Iraq.
The last point is potentially the most interesting development.

The US continues to “disaggregate” the Jaish al-Mahdi. The first step was to separate JAM from the civilian population and other Shia political parties, like SIIC. The second step is to disaggregate JAM itself.

The US is willing to work with the “Noble” Mahdi Militia which is directly under al-Sadr’s control. Simultaneously, the US can target the “criminals” and “Special Groups” – JAM cells which work for Iran. This also leads the US to uncover Iranian Quds Forces and intelligence agents in Iraq. al-Sadr pretends to be an Iraqi Nationalist, so it is difficult for him to protest against US action against Iranian forces. This keeps the entire JAM from being captured by Iran into an Iraqi version of Lebanese Hezbollah.

Sadr suspended JAM activities for 6 months following the outbreak of violence in Karbala. The fight between the Badr Brigades and the JAM embarrassed al-Sadr. It tarnished an event at the holy city and most Iraqis would hold the JAM radicals accountable.

Tribes, Tribes, Tribes. Remember that. Tribes.

This is still a tribal world. Tribes are the center of gravity in every Islamist Insurgency in the world. The Islamists may be Middle Class Radicals, but they can only fight wars where the tribes support them. Where there is no tribal support, the Islamists resort to militarily useless terrorist attacks.

If we turn the tribes against the Islamists, they lose the war. This is the case in Iraq, in Waziristan, in Afghanistan, in Somalia, and the other 25 someodd fronts at any point in time. In places like Pakistan, the government has to turn the tribes against the Taliban. Random US Airstrikes against “al-Qaeda” will flip the tribes into the Taliban camp and make things much worse.

Our focal point of effort and attention must be on the tribes at all times. All other action occurs at the margins and is less relevant. Don’t get distracted.

“Surge” is an old military term. It describes a rapid redeployment of forces. A surge is about logistics, not strategy.

Pelosi declared that the “surge” strategy failed. I want to take a close look at how utterly ignorant this statement is. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita said that as politicians approach a critical moment, their rhetoric becomes ever more vague. They cannot commit to anything specific, because this forces them to explain the undesirable consequences of specific alternatives. As such, it’s best to vaguely protest curent actions and appeal to emotion instead of offering specific alternatives. This is the crux of irrationality.

Here is Petraeus’ Report and his charts.
I’ll review them in detail later.

Dave Dilegge provides a basic background to understand counterinsurgency doctrine and operations in Iraq and elsewhere.

Just to highlight the key points: legitimate government; military-civilian cooperation; politics is 80% of the battle; understand the regional culture; intelligence drives operations; separate insurgents from civilians; provide law and order; long-term commitment.

These type wars take roughly 10 years, sometimes 50 years, you know how it is. They burn at a very low intensity, so you cannot expect anything immediately decisive.

Michael Totten is touring Anbar Province. He’s got a report on the old Battle of Ramadi and what the Post-Victory phase looks like. Worth a read.

This has been bugging me for awhile. The Sunni Arabs ruled over the Kurds and Shia brutally with a totalitarian dictatorship for decades. The Sunnis were imperialists who ruled over their small empire in some form or another for generations.

When the Shia formed a government, they invited the Sunnis to join in 2004. The Sunni Arabs rebelled and supported a terror campaign against the Shia to restore the Sunni Empire.

Why, precisely, should the Shia reconcile with the Sunnis? I’m not even a Shia and I’m not in the mood to play nice with the Sunnis – many of whom continue to fight.

Strategy Page compares the New ISF to the Saddam-era military forces. There has been major improvements, namely that Iraq has a real army these days.

Michael Yon has good advice about progress in Iraq: Ask the Battalion Commanders. The Majors and Lt. Colonels, especially infantry commanders, know the most about the tactical and strategic situation in their sector. If you want honest and well-informed assessments, ask them.

To win over Tribal Societies we have to relearn the concepts of shame and honor. Counterinsurgency operations inTribal Societies can be improved by following McCallister’s Engagement Model (pdf). One of the most important things about tribe is their cultural concept of honor. Knowledge about unique structure and organizations are useful but less important.

An important and often misunderstood fact is the zero-sum tradeoff between shame and honor in these cultures. To win their cooperation, forget about hearts and minds.

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