We have met the enemy, and we have a consensus
Marines.mil photo, General Pace is not in the vanguard of this emerging consensus, but he has begun to adopt its introspective tone.
Is a consensus emerging among the top commanders to break with the political leadership and create a new plan?
The situation in Iraq has yielded countless proposals and counterproposals. Seldom has so much ink been spilt discussing policy changes that will never see the light of day. It seems as though James Baker's Iraq Study Group will issue a sobering report around the holidays -- timed after the election and with no regard given to Thanksgiving dinner. They will endorse neither "stay the course" nor "cut and run". After all, neither plan is a sensible one. Similarly, Senator John Warner stated that a new policy may soon be needed in Iraq, in his statement of 10/5/2006. A sentiment expressed earlier in the year by Chuck Hagel.
Among the foreign policy elites, there is a consensus emerging on Iraq. They now realize our actions in the Middle East can inflame anti-U.S. sentiment. Drawing upon past experience with counterinsurgencies and recent experience in the Middle East, intelligence and military leaders are asking tough questions, such as if this policy is creating more harm than good? And if the answer to that question is a sobering one, then what steps should be taken to change the direction of our policies. For a long time, the administrations of Tony Blair and George W. Bush have lead the strategic thinking in the war on terror. Both men have great talents, but neither is a military strategist of any renown. There is a sea change in the near future.
A noteworthy element of this emerging consensus is that it does not and cannot advocate indefinitely "staying the course", which is more slogan than policy. United States intelligence, military leadership and British military leadership have all stated, in various ways, that combat operations in Iraq are creating problems while simultaneously degrading some parts of the insurgent and terrorist networks. A completed draft of a new counterinsurgency doctrine for the United States notes the following:
1-116. Any use of force generates a series of reactions. There may be times when an overwhelming effort is necessary to intimidate an opponent or reassure the populace. But the type and amount of force to be applied, and who wields it, should be carefully calculated by a counterinsurgent for any operation. An operation that kills five insurgents is counterproductive if the collateral damage or the creation of blood feuds leads to the recruitment of fifty more.
This contradicts the simplistic assertions of Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush that fighting terror does not produce more terrorists. In addition to this Field Manual contradicting that assertion, British Chief of Staff for the Army, General Richard Dannatt, has contradicted the prime minister with a similar analysis.
The developing consensus is reality-based and takes into consideration the effects of recent operations. Moreover, the British element of this consensus has hinted at a time frame (five to ten years) and has begun to vocally call for more efforts to be directed at Afghanistan.
If Bush and his administration can be summed up into one phrase concerning American military power, it would be: they took office overly convinced of American military and political exceptionalism. More pragmatic thinking has evolved from within the large organizations that are responsible for enacting the Bush adminsitration's plans. To declare that Tony Blair is simply following Bush along is also overly simplistic. It was Blair who outlined an interventionist doctrine in April 1999, while George W. Bush was focusing on domestic politics and an election campaign.
Plans have begun to be questioned, apparently with near unanimity among the British officer corps and with some interesting momentum in the United States. Sustainability in combat operations is far from assured. Success is far from assured. We hear time and again that the solution to Iraq will be political and not martial.
With this in mind, the National Intelligence Estimate of April 2006, which created so much news in September, deserves to be revisited. That estimate, because of the time it was written, could not take into account the death of Al Qaeda Emir Abu Musab al Zarqawi. The estimate could not evaluate the efforts of Coalition troops and police to pacify Baghdad. The estimate did link the situation in Iraq to the broader war on terror -- a point that enjoys startling consensus in our divided political era. If you believe that Iraq has been a mistake, you most likely believe it has had a negative impact on the war on terror. If you believe we must stay in Iraq, you most likely believe this because of the war on terror.
This NIE, according to leaks in the blogosphere, stated: "Threats to the U.S. are intrinsically linked to U.S. success or failure in Iraq." Every week there are developments concerning the war in Iraq that have an impact on an honest assessment of the strategic position of the United States of America. The April NIE presented four causes for Islamic militant action:
(1) Entrenched grievances, such as corruption, injustice, and fear of Western domination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness;Some incorrectly portrayed these four points as demonstrating that Iraq only comprised about 25 percent of our trouble with the Muslim world. Here are the four points in paragraph form, with Iraq added as an adjective when appropriate. I have added some explanation and another conflict that occurred after this NIE was produced:
(2) the Iraq "jihad";
(3) the slow pace of real and sustained economic, social, and political reforms in many Muslim majority nations; and
(4) pervasive anti-US sentiment among most Muslims.
Entrenched grievances, such as corruption, injustice, and fear of Western domination [Iraq, Hezbollah vs. Israel], leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness; the Iraq "jihad"; the slow pace of real and sustained economic, social, and political [reconstruction and security woes in Iraq, similar problems in Palestine, war in Lebanon] reforms in many Muslim majority nations; and pervasive anti-US sentiment [Iraq, support for corrupt Arab governments, Hezbollah vs. Israel] among most Muslims.Substantial parts of the April NIE are presented in italics below. I have added items to the NIE and offered commentary.
United States-led counterterrorism efforts have seriously damaged the leadership of al-Qa’ida and disrupted its operations; however, we judge that al-Qa’ida will continue to pose the greatest threat to the Homeland and US interests abroad by a single terrorist organization. We also assess that the global jihadist movement—which includes al- Qa’ida, affiliated and independent terrorist groups, and emerging networks and cells—is spreading and adapting to counterterrorism efforts.
• Although we cannot measure the extent of the spread with precision, a large body of all-source reporting indicates that activists identifying themselves as jihadists, although a small percentage of Muslims, are increasing in both number and geographic dispersion.
• If this trend continues, threats to US interests at home and abroad will become more diverse, leading to increasing attacks worldwide.
The former point-man at CIA for dispensing of Osama bin Laden, Michael Scheuer, was interviewed by Harpers on 8/23/2006. He had the following to say...
On balance, [we are] more vulnerable [than before 9/11]. We're safer in terms of aircraft travel. We're safer from being attacked by some dumbhead who tries to come into the country through an official checkpoint; we've spent billions on that. But for the most part our victories have been tactical and not strategic. There have been important successes by the intelligence services and Special Forces in capturing and killing Al Qaeda militants, but in the long run that's just a body count, not progress. We can't capture them one by one and bring them to justice. There are too many of them, and more now than before September 11. In official Western rhetoric these are finite organizations, but every time we interfere in Muslim countries they get more support.
The quality of [al Qaeda's] leadership is not as high as it was in 2001, because we've killed and captured so many of its leaders. But they have succession planning that works very well. We keep saying that we're killing their leaders, but you notice that we keep having to kill their number twos, threes and fours all over again. They bring in replacements, and these are not novices off the street—they're understudies. From the very first, bin Laden has said that he's just one person and Al Qaeda is a vanguard organization, that it needs other Muslims to join them. He's always said that his primary goal is to incite attacks by people who might not have any direct contact with Al Qaeda. Since 2001, and especially since mid-2005, there's been an increase in the number of groups that were not directly tied to Al Qaeda but were inspired by bin Laden's words and actions.
• Greater pluralism and more responsive political systems in Muslim majority nations would alleviate some of the grievances jihadists exploit. Over time, such progress, together with sustained, multifaceted programs targeting the vulnerabilities of the jihadist movement and continued pressure on al-Qa’ida, could erode support for the jihadists.
We assess that the global jihadist movement is decentralized, lacks a coherent global strategy, and is becoming more diffuse. New jihadist networks and cells, with anti-American agendas, are increasingly likely to emerge. The confluence of shared purpose and dispersed actors will make it harder to find and undermine jihadist groups.
• We assess that the operational threat from self-radicalized cells will grow in importance to US counterterrorism efforts, particularly abroad but also in the Homeland.
We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.
• The Iraq conflict has become the "cause celebre" for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.
In late September, BBC's News Night reported that a British MoD-linked analysis from a senior officer stated the following:
The wars in Afghanistan and particularly Iraq have not gone well and are progressing slowly towards an as yet unspecified and uncertain result.
The War in Iraq...has acted as a recruiting sergeant for extremists from across the Muslim world.
The Al Qaeda ideology has taken root within the Muslim world and Muslim populations within western countries. Iraq has served to radicalise an already disillusioned youth and Al Qaeda has given them the will, intent, purpose and ideology to act.
British Armed Forces are effectively held hostage in Iraq - following the failure of the deal being attempted by COS (Chief of Staff) to extricate UK Armed Forces from Iraq on the basis of 'doing Afghanistan' - and we are now fighting (and arguably losing or potentially losing) on two fronts.
The West will not be able to find peaceful exit strategies from Iraq and Afghanistan - creating greater animosity...and a return to violence and radicalisation on their leaving. The enemy it has identified (terrorism) is the wrong target. As an idea it cannot be defeated.
In mid-October, the Daily Mail had a stunning exclusive from the British chief of the Army, Sir Richard Dannatt:
In unprecedented comments he warned that the Army could 'break' if British soldiers are kept too long in Iraq.
"I want an Army in five years time and 10 years time. Don't let's break it on this one. Let's keep an eye on time," he said.
Downing Street was aghast at the general's remarks, though in public it offered "full support".
His comments come after an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail, where Sir Richard warned that the continuing presence of British troops "exacerbates the security problems" in Iraq
Some on the left attempted to portray the general's remarks as a call for quick and sudden departure from Iraq. Clearly, based on the expressed time frame that was echoed in the general's press release ('We're going to see this through'), General Dannatt's comments are best viewed as those in uniform expressing their concerns about the future of the British Armed Forces. Reports from other media outlets in Britain state that British officers support their general almost completely.
It is interesting to note that although Dannatt's comments are almost unprecedented there have been several public expressions of concern from generals in the United States as well. Their concerns involve the sustainability of combat operations and the impact that will have on the United States military. Also, these concerns discuss the negative results of military action in a Muslim country.
America's top general, Peter Pace, stated that the Iraq plan was under informal review at about the same time that Dannatt was talking to the Daily Mail, CNN:
"Are those assumptions still valid? If they are OK, then how are we doing in getting to where we are supposed to be going?," Pace said. "If we're getting there, how do we reinforce that? If we're not, what should we change?"
The chief of staff for the United States Army has campaigned hard for additional funding, McClatchy Newspapers:
Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, says the service needs $138 billion in 2008 to ensure it can field as many as 19 combat brigades at any given time, as called for by the Pentagon's latest four-year strategy. That figure is about $20 billion more than Congress approved for the Army in the 2007 budget.
The Army has 17 combat brigades deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan - a total of about 136,000 soldiers - but keeping those troops in battle has put unprecedented strain on the Army's funding, despite an estimated $507 billion that Congress has set aside since 2001 to pay for the wars.
But with more boots on the ground than any other service, the Army also has borne the brunt of manpower and equipment losses. More than 2,100 of the 3,100 U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan have been Army soldiers. The Army plans to spend $17.1 billion this year to replace or repair equipment that's been lost or damaged, including more than 2,000 vehicles awaiting overhaul.
Over the next few years, the consensus of the intelligence community states that both the Iraqi insurgency and the spread of global jihad will increase.
We assess that the underlying factors fueling the spread of the movement outweigh its vulnerabilities and are likely to do so for the duration of the timeframe of this Estimate.
Michael Scheuer from the Harpers' interview...
Iraq was the perfect execution of a war that demanded jihad to oppose it. You had an infidel power invading and occupying a Muslim country and it was perceived to be unprovoked. Many senior Western officials said that bin Laden was not a scholar and couldn't declare a jihad but other Muslim clerics did. So that religious question was erased.
Secondly, Iraq is in the Arab heartland and, far more than Afghanistan, is a magnet for mujahideen. You can see this in the large number of people crossing the border to fight us. It wasn't a lot at the start, but there's been a steady growth as the war continues. The war has validated everything bin Laden said: that the United States will destroy any strong government in the Arab world, that it will seek to destroy Israel's enemies, that it will occupy Muslim holy places, that it will seize Arab oil, and that it will replace God's law with man's law. We see Iraq as a honey pot that attracts jihadists whom we can kill there instead of fighting them here. We are ignoring that Iraq is not just a place to kill Americans; Al Qaeda has always said that it requires safe havens. It has said it couldn't get involved with large numbers in the Balkans war because it had no safe haven in the region. Now they have a safe haven in Iraq, which is so big and is going to be so unsettled for so long. For the first time, it gives Al Qaeda contiguous access to the Arabian Peninsula, to Turkey, and to the Levant. We may have written the death warrant for Jordan. If we pull out of Iraq, we have a problem in that we may have to leave a large contingent of troops in Jordan. All of this is a tremendous advantage for Al Qaeda. We've moved the center of jihad a thousand miles west from Afghanistan to the Middle East.
• Four underlying factors are fueling the spread of the jihadist movement: (1) Entrenched grievances, such as corruption, injustice, and fear of Western domination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness; (2) the Iraq "jihad"; (3) the slow pace of real and sustained economic, social, and political reforms in many Muslim majority nations; and (4) pervasive anti-US sentiment among most Muslims'all of which jihadists exploit.
Concomitant vulnerabilities in the jihadist movement have emerged that, if fully exposed and exploited, could begin to slow the spread of the movement. They include dependence on the continuation of Muslim-related conflicts, the limited appeal of the jihadists' radical ideology, the emergence of respected voices of moderation, and criticism of the violent tactics employed against mostly Muslim citizens.
• The jihadists' greatest vulnerability is that their ultimate political solution -- an ultra-conservative interpretation of sharia-based governance spanning the Muslim world -- is unpopular with the vast majority of Muslims. Exposing the religious and political straitjacket that is implied by the jihadists' propaganda would help to divide them from the audiences they seek to persuade.
• Recent condemnations of violence and extremist religious interpretations by a few notable Muslim clerics signal a trend that could facilitate the growth of a constructive alternative to jihadist ideology: peaceful political activism. This also could lead to the consistent and dynamic participation of broader Muslim communities in rejecting violence, reducing the ability of radicals to capitalize on passive community support. In this way, the Muslim mainstream emerges as the most powerful weapon in the war on terror.
• Countering the spread of the jihadist movement will require coordinated multilateral efforts that go well beyond operations to capture or kill terrorist leaders.
The Chatham House, a think tank in the United Kingdom, reported on many of these factors in excerpt:
(WP) One Army officer summarized it as arguing that in Anbar province, "We haven't been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically -- and that's where wars are won and lost."In mid-October, Iraq's parliament has approved a path toward strong federalist semi-states. This was done over the strong objections of the Sunni minority. Though federalism is officially on-hold in Iraq for 18 months, based on the legislation, it is a de facto way of life for most of Kurdistan. It is an increasing trend in Southern Iraq as well. These trends will likely add to the Sunni's sometimes violent actions against the Iraqi government and foreign military forces.
(FMI 3 07 1.1) An insurgency is organized movement aimed at the overthrow of a constituted government through use of subversion and armed conflict (JP 1-02). It is a protracted politico military struggle designed to weaken government control and legitimacy while increasing insurgent control. Political power is the central issue in an insurgency.
(WP) Devlin reports that there are no [CE: He probably wrote “practically none” or some such.] functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar, leaving a vacuum that has been filled by the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has become the province's most significant political force, said the Army officer, who has read the report. Another person familiar with the report said it describes Anbar as beyond repair; a third said it concludes that the United States has [CE: Politically?] lost in Anbar.
(NYT) Feeling marginalized in the new Iraq, the Sunnis in Anbar have generally lost faith in the new Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad. The Sunnis’ “greatest fears have been realized,” the report says.
(NYT) The Sunnis’ suspicion of the government makes the task of forging a political reconciliation more difficult, and has also complicated one policy option … dividing the country into Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni enclaves. Such a plan would not be welcomed by Sunnis, since they would not trust the central government to share proceeds from oil sales, the assessment says.
More from the Devlin report.• The increased role of Iraqis in managing the operations of al-Qaida in Iraq might lead veteran foreign jihadists to focus their efforts on external operations. Other affiliated Sunni extremist organizations, such as Jemaah Islamiya, Ansar al-Sunnah, and several North African groups, unless countered, are likely to expand their reach and become more capable of multiple and/or mass-casualty attacks outside their traditional areas of operation.
(NYT) American forces can generally maneuver where they want and are fighting to regain control of Ramadi, the provincial capital, neighborhood by neighborhood. But there are areas of the province where the Americans have not established a persistent presence, the assessment says.
(FMI 3 07) [CE: On a successful counterinsurgency] 2-10. Security of the populace is an imperative. This is security from the influence of the insurgents initially. The population is then mobilized, armed, and trained to protect itself. Effective security allows local political and administrative institutions to operate freely and commerce to flourish.
(NYT) Without the deployment of an additional division, “there is nothing MNF-W can do to influence the motivation of the Sunni to wage an insurgency,” the report states, according to a military officer familiar with it. MNF-W stands for Multinational Force-West, the formal name of the Marine command.
(NYT) The assessment describes Anbar as a region marked by violence and criminality. Except for a few relatively bright spots, like the towns of Falluja and Qaim, the region generally lacks functional governments and a respect for the rule of law.
(NYT) Although there is economic growth in relatively secure areas, much of it can be attributed to the American-supported reconstruction effort. The level of economic activity in the province is just a fraction of what it was before 2003, the assessment says.
(NYT) As the situation has deteriorated, insurgent attacks have increased. The report describes Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia as an “integral part of the social fabric” of Anbar. The organization, which is predominantly made up of fighters who are native Iraqis, is flush with cash, much of it earned from black market or criminal activity.
• We assess that such groups pose less of a danger to the Homeland than does al-Qaida but will pose varying degrees of threat to our allies and to US interests abroad. The focus of their attacks is likely to ebb and flow between local regime targets and regional or global ones.
We judge that most jihadist groups -- both well-known and newly formed -- will use improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks focused primarily on soft targets to implement their asymmetric warfare strategy, and that they will attempt to conduct sustained terrorist attacks in urban environments. Fighters with experience in Iraq are a potential source of leadership for jihadists pursuing these tactics.
• CBRN capabilities will continue to be sought by jihadist groups.
While Iran, and to a lesser extent Syria, remain the most active state sponsors of terrorism, many other states will be unable to prevent territory or resources from being exploited by terrorists.
Pakistan has recently settled into a treaty with tribes on the Afghan border. The Christian Science Monitor on 9/26/2006 reports this as a sign of weakness for Musharraf's government....
In North Waziristan, JUI leaders responded by flexing their political muscles: they brought local Pakistani Taliban to the table and negotiated a cease-fire. For now, a delicate peace seems to be restored. But for many, relying on JUI as the middle man between the government and the Taliban is a Faustian deal, and it underscores Musharraf's political weakness at home. In the deal, JUI also won concessions for the local Taliban, resulting in the release from prison of hundreds of their fighters.
JUI members defend the deal as a practical solution for peace. "The North Waziristan deal is a good for the people, so we supported it," says Mr. Banoori.
CNN reports that early indications show an increase in attacks launched from this area against the Afghan government.
Anti-US and anti-globalization sentiment is on the rise and fueling other radical ideologies. This could prompt some leftist, nationalist, or separatist groups to adopt terrorist methods to attack US interests. The radicalization process is occurring more quickly, more widely, and more anonymously in the Internet age, raising the likelihood of surprise attacks by unknown groups whose members and supporters may be difficult to pinpoint.
• We judge that groups of all stripes will increasingly use the Internet to communicate, propagandize, recruit, train, and obtain logistical and financial support.
As anticipated, violence in Iraq has increased during the month of Ramadan, according to the United States military. Attacks averaged about 28 per day in the summer. They are now at a rate of 36 per day, as reported in the Los Angeles Times. Even though the United States has launched a security operation in Baghdad, the city remains extremely violent. The Los Angeles Times reported:
On Wednesday, the Iraqi Health Ministry reported that more than 2,660 civilians had been killed in Baghdad in September, Associated Press reported. The toll was about 400 higher than in August, despite an intensified U.S.-Iraqi sweep aimed at reining in the violence.
I accept this apparent line from the April NIE: "Threats to the U.S. are intrinsically linked to U.S. success or failure in Iraq." The trend in the early autumn concerning Iraq is one more of failure than of success. This does not mean that there will be no reversal, nor does it mean that there is not an infrastructure being established for a reversal. But, as I look at the passage of federalism, the increased violence in Baghdad, the political and security issues in al Anbar, the questions on sustainability for both the British and American armed forces with the present commitment, I grow increasingly concerned.
However, there is reason to maintain some optimism. I noticed a comment from an anonymous Marine officer in an online forum a few days ago. He stated that the Marines are the best they have ever been. I believe his assessment is honest and accurate. I also believe that the United States Army will be able to declare something similar within two or three years -- especially if there is a new strategy in Iraq, if standards are raised for enlistment, and if there are two or three divisions added to the active duty force. The Bush administration has been an extreme test for the infantry-component of our armed forces. They've been told to go light, lean and aggressive. The values of transformation have been juxtaposed to the harsh reality of Iraq.
I believe we will see the leadership of the Army and Marines and the British military push the civilian leadership to accept pragmatic goals. The next few years appear bleak, however the bleak years of the Civil War helped to produce the American military that evolved into a world power and eventually saved the world from facism.
The declassified NIE is available on the DNI website.