Sunday, September 19, 2004

Insurgent Strategy

It’s still very difficult to get a sense of what the situation is really like on the ground in Iraq. Obviously, at the moment, you can objectively say things are not going well, but is it really as chaotic as the media is currently making it out to be? I've been following the war as best I can via the Internet, but obviously that still has its limitations. Juan Cole is providing some of the best analysis, but I'm just comparing his site with other news sources, without really knowing if any of them are getting it right.

What I find most vexing is trying to figure out who the insurgents really are. Is it mainly former Baathists? Is it foreign Islamic radicals infiltrating the country? Are the Shia participating on a much larger scale than anyone wants to admit? Or is it a combination? I have yet to read any compelling analysis that attempts to explain who the insurgents are and what their goals are. The default answer seems to be to end the American occupation, and of course, send us packing in humiliating defeat. I'm sure that's a goal for most of the insurgents, but I'm sensing there is more strategy at play than a simple American defeat. It seems the bulk of the attacks, at least the most lethal ones, are targeted against Iraqis cooperating with the Americans, and specifically, any Iraqis attempting to join the new Iraqi police force. I'm sure the insurgents would like to inflict more damage against the Americans, but that target fights back, and it's much more difficult to attack. But I think targeting Iraqi army recruits is their primary goal. These insurgents aren't stupid. They know the US is going to leave eventually, most likely sooner, rather than later, and their most likely enemy after we leave will be the new Iraqi army. They only have to look at Saddam's old security forces to figure out how Iraq will be governed. If a new Iraqi army is allowed to form, it will consolidate power and most likely rule as harshly as Saddam, leaving those not part of the new power structure at the mercy, and exploitation of this new government. I'm sure the Kurds are watching this closely. When the Americans leave, they will be at the mercy of this new government, and there's every reason to believe they'll be vulnerable to a hostile government.

Attacking the American military certainly is a primary goal for the insurgents, but many of them must be looking ahead to an inevitable post-occupation Iraq, and the control of the Iraqi army will be the key to controlling the country.

-MB

UPDATE: This story came out a day after this blog. Basically a summary of how difficult it's been to form an Iraqi army and what role they might play in securing the peace. Allawi's - the interim Prime Minister - ominous quotes provide insight on what we can expect from this new Iraq army.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/20/politics/20army.html?hp



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