Saturday, September 20, 2008

A different view of the surge and a rebuttal

friend emailed me with different perspective on the surge:
Please read Dr. Biddle's testimony before the Senate FRC about the so called successful Surge Strategy.  He points out that the tide was already turning before the additional troops ever arrived.  What he doesn't say (and these are my thoughts) is that the Pentagon was informed of this changing tide and created the "Troop Surge Strategy" because that would make the President look good by taking credit for something that no one in the world knew was already happening.
So when Bush and McCain talk about the success of the Troop Surge, I just laugh to myself.  I hope the Obama campaign picks up on this.
I asked a friend who's in the military to comment on this and here's his reply -- REALLY interesting -- a story I've never seen reported:
Whitney.....  it's bullshit...  I don't know where to begin and frankly am startled that the Administration has obviously done such a poor job of communicating with the American Public that people still don't know what has transpired.... unbelievable.     I have a well placed friend who was in Iraq.... on Petraeus's staff...  he is one of the whiz kid brilliant strategists from our SAMS program out in Leavenworth....  and as a Lieutenant Colonel was one of the guys who planned the first assault (which was a brilliant plan and will go down in history as such).... of course the idiots in DOD and Rumsfeld didn't want to plan for the aftermath because they saw it as a State Dept mission, and they seriously cut back our troops to task ratio which handcuffed our planning.... but that's a different story!! 

 In any case Odierno and Petraeus got these guys together prior to the surge....  it was right before the Baker Report came out.... Bush had told GEN Casey who was then in charge in Iraq "We're not playing for a tie.".......   Casey who is a conventional guy I think was over his head operationally....  Petraeus told the room...."OK, let's win this thing.  We're going to give it our best shot."  And off go the SAMs grads to figure it out...  Petraeus had the year prior I think it was signed off on the Army's first ever counter insurgency manual... steeped in asymmetric warfare...  the thinking was that "the surge" as it was later termed would be a lot more than a plus up of troops....  but a complete change in how they were used.  The media focus on troop levels .... a surge in their numbers....  the real brilliance of the surge isn't the damn troop numbers...but the complete change in strategy....   Casey had the Army hunkered down in Forward Operating Bases (FOBs)....  behind walls in a bunker, fortress mentality... they would go out on patrols to create presence....and then go back to the FOB....  this was a disaster.  The enemy could pick and choose when and where to strike....wait for us.....BAM!!!.... disappear.... we then lick our wounds and go back to the FOB, and the enemy remains...  In conventional warfare, one of the key components of strategy we call Key Terrain.  Think of a hill....  a road junction.... a city....   Petraeus defined the Key Terrain as the populace and their "buy in" to what we're doing....  the key component of that newly defined key terrain were the Sunni tribal chiefs - one of our many enemies at the time.   We were fighting three main groups - Al Qaida in Iraq, the Sunni, the Shia.... with us in the middle trying to prop up a pathetic weak government with no legitimacy....  

 Al Qaida had complete freedom of maneuver....placing themselves right in the middle of all of Iraqs many schisms..... blowing up Shia civilians and landmarks and making it look like Sunni did it (remember the large mosque explosion in the heart of Shia society)....  Al Qaida's members happen to be Sunni and they all came running into Iraq out of Yemin, Saudi, Kuwait, Syria etc.... pouring into Iraq.... their aim was to seize Sunni society...establish Sharia....foment a civil war.. and in the chaos see us leave the scene - a crippled, weak defeated power... then go after the Shia with a vengeance... as victors they would then control Iraq's oil wealth....the cash flow.... the societal expertise.... and effectively have a strategic position of surrounding Iran sandwiched between Pakistan and Iraq.... Al Qaida's main objective is to take Pakistan.... a nuclear power... they would then force the Shia nation to submit to their will - Shia as a form of Islam would be annihilated.... and the extreme brand of Whabbism would dominate the entire Arab world...  the US would be humiliated and no longer stand in their way.....    

The SAMs grads figured that the losers in this would be the traditional Sunni tribal chiefs - long steeped in a secular society with far less religious overtones and culture... the pattern of Al Qaida had become clear by this point....   take Ramadi for example - Al Qaida called it their capital city in Iraq and they controlled it.... they essentially went in.... and humiliated the tribal chiefs.... establishing torture houses throughout the city.... they banned dancing, co-mingling of the sexes, music, etc...  Resistance?  Futile....  They'd make examples.... pull someone in... and commence their work....  drilling into the skull ("to cleanse their minds of evil thoughts")... acid in the eyes.... fingers....penises... breasts - CUT OFF.  Ears?  No problem.  Nose?  All the better.  Hand?  Not quite enough....  They basically emasculated Sunni male society and terrorized the population into total submition....  young boys forced into their ranks for brain washing....  One of the tribal chiefs.... had young son.... who was summarily marched to the center of town.... people pulled out of their homes and forced to watch....  as he was tortured and then disembowled for all to see....  

The first part of the "Surge" was to turn this dynamic against Al Qaida....  troop numbers alone would be futile.... the US Army had only capability to surge 20-30K.... hardly enough....  had to change the dynamic on the ground...  So we approached those Sunni tribal chiefs.... formed alliances....empowered them.... armed them (our erstwhile enemy - very unconventional and risky of course)....  this all happened before the first troops of the surge arrived....  and those tribal chiefs went to work on Al Qaida....  it was a viscous brutal response... The Sunni tribes turned on Al Qaida..

And then immediately....  Petraeus kicked the US Army out of the FOB mentality.... and honeycombed Baghdad with teams that PERMANENTLY stayed.... and you recall that this had enormous risk.... we had just had the incident of the two HMMWVs getting overrun by a rush of 30 Al Qaida....who got two of our guys.... and then proceeded to hack them to pieces in slow, brutal, humiliating fashion... cut off their penises....shoved them in their mouths.... then disemboweled them.....cut off their heads.... and drug them through the streets..... yes, our guys save one bullet.   So Petraeus basically has to tell our guys that they are being forced out of the safety of the FOBs and into the streets....  in small, exposed teams.... but he did it...  And each team had as its objective to meld as much as possible into Iraqi society.... talk to the people.... befriend them.... shop in their stores...  and show everyone that we were not afraid to be out in the city.... and force Al Qaida into the shadows....  where....ta da!!....  the Sunni tribal chiefs were waiting for them....  From Baghdad we went right into the GUTS of Al Qaida's "capital".....  Ramadi was key.... we did the same thing there.... and most of those "surge troops" were to extend the strategy beyond just Baghdad.... right to the guts of Al Qaida in Iraq....  to humiliate them.  

So what you have is not only a "surge" in numbers.....  which militarily speaking was not that significant.... but a complete change in strategy and how those troops were used....   that change on the ground "before the surge" as described below was due to the overtures we made to the tribal chiefs and to the honeycombing strategy of our own guys.....BEFORE ...the first surge troops arrived....  but definitely a huge part of the Petraeus plan....and believe me..... the current administration has more than a few enemies in the military....  the Army in particular... for forcing us into this and leaving us to hold the bag.... no one that I know of would do something to "make the President look good."  It's just not how we think...... I think it fair to say that most in the military really have antipathy for the political class - regardless of party..... they're the ones who force us to do things that we don't necessarily want to do.... and we see our friends die because of it..... whether Somalia (Clinton), Beirut (Carter, Reagan), or Iraq (Bush)......  the military mind is to do whatever it takes to win....  I can't begin to describe at the hostility right now against those who were willing to accept defeat (Abazaid, Casey, Sanchez, etc.).......  but Petraeus, Odierno?  I've never seen more love...  they have restored our honor, our dignity, our respect....


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