Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Predicting The Anti-Surge

Quadrillage, the counterinsurgency theory subscribed to by commanding General David Petraeus in Iraq and which puts the purge into "the Surge," relies on a system of outposts, each manned by a small core of US troops backed by a larger domestic garrison. If an outpost comes under attack in a vicinity which has been previously "purged" of insurgents, cavalry from the a Regional HQ will ride in to relieve the fort, the insurgents will be killed or driven off, and the inhabitants of the sector will be punished and re-pacified as appropriate.

If the population isn't sufficiently pacified in the first place, however, pacified enough to deny tacit or active support to insurgents, and the insurgents manage to survive or elude the house-to-house sweeps, you've got trouble in Quadrillage. All available data indicate that's precisely what has happened. The number and intensity of Sunni/al-Qaeda attacks has started to increase again, and many of them have benefitted from either amazing luck or startlingly good intelligence. 9,000 unemployed Sunni males reach combat age in Iraq every month, and the insurgency does not suffer from a lack of fresh manpower, weapons, or funding. Even while the Mahdi army, SCIRI, and Dawa stand down to observe the surge, the violence has increased.

Here comes the denouement. The Sunni insurgency will scout Coalition outposts and catalogue how to attack each and in what sequence; they will previously ensure that, at the appropriate time, a domestic garrison either provides lackluster support or doesn't show up at all; they will then attack the squad in the outpost and either overwhelm them or melt away, and then focus on their primary objective: ambush the column sent to relieve the outpost. This will probably occur at night and the story will likely go unreported in the US media, which will only see one part of the operation, not the coordinated whole. Initially it'll just look like unconnected chaos. Then when garrisons are overrun, only the delusional die-hards will deny what's going on.

Over time, all the insurgents have to do to win militarily is to keep pressure upon the outposts and provoke relief responses over and over. The responses alone will grind the Coalition forces down through operational pressure (i.e., without heavy casualties) because 2 or 3 guys in a pickup truck can tie down a platoon-sized force, plus maybe a helicopter or two, for most of a night. They can use dispersion as a force multiplier and equalizer. Eventually, the sheer asymmetry of cost effects will exhaust the occupying force, and the insurgency will graduate into a guerilla status, able to win back sectors and return in daylight to dish out reprisals on collaborateurs. This is how Quadrillage failed in Vietnam and Algiers, and this is how it will fail in Iraq. If Native Americans had cell-phones, they probably could've defeated it, too. Just like before, the pros will keep saying, "Well, we were never defeated militarily."

The Achilles heel of Quadrillage is that armies truly stink at pacifying populations. In fact it's difficult to imagine a task armed fighting forces are less suited to; it's like asking child molesters to run a kindergarten. Meanwhile, each mini-fort is static and exposed, and unless the population it covers is truly pacified, they will betray it.

Who amongst us thinks it's not too late to pacify the Sunnis in Iraq?

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